Bowling shootout looms as same but different Australia and South Africa renew Test rivalry

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As far as rematches go, it’s less spicy than it could have been. Originally, Steve Smith and David Warner were due to return to South Africa for a series of tests in early 2021, returning to the scene from the moody and unhappy 2018 tour which had them both banned for a year. Instead, the trip ended up being a casualty of the pandemic, so the parties’ first test meeting – 18 months later on Australian soil – tarnishes the immediacy of associations with the past, even if the history of sandpaper is bubbling again thanks to the abandonment of Warner. efforts to have his lifetime ban on directing overturned.

Related: The story turns in favor of David Warner but it is to forget the reasons for his ban | Geoff Lemon

Much of the staff is the same as in 2018: Smith, Warner and Usman Khawaja with the bat, Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood with the ball. South Africa still have Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Keshav Maharaj in their bowling ranks, with Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn in order. But these two teams have changed in character. Australians are more stable, mature and sanguine in the way they approach things on the pitch. The South Africans are a developing team, with infusions of new bowling talent to supplement a less-convincing batting line-up.

On the contrary, the tension between nations is more at the administrative level. South African leaders were furious when Cricket Australia cited Covid for canceling the 2021 tour after doing everything possible to meet CA’s health requirements, given Cricket South Africa’s fragile financial situation. They got their own back by canceling a series of one-day games that were supposed to follow testing in January, instead recalling their players for a new T20 domestic league that will go through the Big Bash and absorb a lot of big-name international players that CA hoped to recruit.

Related: Rotation | The best of enemies? Why the rivalry between South Africa and Australia is so spicy

On the pitch, South Africa’s hopes will hinge on making the series a bowling shootout from the first Test in Brisbane. Aside from the aforementioned trio, who have 115 Tests between them, there’s plenty of added excitement. Anrich Nortje claims to be the fastest bowler in the world at the moment, having become a sensation via cricket at 20 in the Indian Premier League but also taking wickets at a good clip in his recent Test appearances.

His short-ball barrages on docile Pakistani bridges suggest he could relish Australian conditions. Marco Jansen offers every point of difference available: 207cm tall, left arm angle, efficient on both sides of the wicket and able to place the order if needed. Gerald Coetzee is yet to make his debut at 22, but he’s been playing with a lot of heat and scored a hat trick to annihilate a CA team’s lower order in a warm-up game. Then there’s Simon Harmer as a reserve spinner, with his vast experience returned to his national team after being absent for years in English county cricket.

Lungi Ngidi (left) and Anrich Nortje (right) at Allan Border Field earlier this week. Photography: Darren England/AAP

Whoever is chosen from this wealth of talent will need to be at their best against an enviable Australian side. Khawaja, Smith, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne all made mass runs in the recent series against the West Indies, with the only minor concerns being the uncompetitive nature of this offense, distractions during a few low scores for Warner and the lack of time. in the middle for Cameron Green.

Bowling looks just as robust given the bench’s current strength. Hazlewood and Cummins missed West Indies’ second Test, Hazlewood will stay out for Brisbane, and Starc may need a break at some point, but Scott Boland picked up where he left off last summer in taking three wickets in an over, and Michael Neser played admirably in his second game. Both have outstanding national records at the Gabba.

Taking advantage of this bowling will be the challenge for South Africa. Elgar will still offer the fight as captain and opening batsman, but he’s light on support. Rassie van der Dussen has proven himself a class player in over-50 cricket without transferring him to Tests. Sarel Erwee and at-bat keeper Kyle Verreyne have very unconvincing records despite being better domestically. Bavuma played 51 Tests for a century. Khaya Zondo and Heinrich Klaasen barely played. After winning their first Test in England earlier this year by one leg, South Africa were knocked out four times for under 200 to concede the series.

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Before India recently took over, South Africa were the only team to have regular success in Australia, winning three series between 2008 and 2016. But it’s not AB de Villiers’ team , Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla or Jacques Kallis. A much more callous team will need something against the odds to compete this time around. The home side should be the overwhelming favorites to push the 2018 story one step further, although over the years the Australia-South Africa competitions have taught us not to take anything for granted.

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