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Greg Chappell


Chappell: Clarke could be key

09 November 2012 2

Now that all the hot air has been expended talking the talk, I look forward to the cricket starting on Friday so we can find out out which team can walk the walk.

It will be a series waged between two teams with strength in pace bowling, but with question marks surrounding the rest of their components.

Spin bowling should not swing the series for either team, but batting will be a definite decider.

Interestingly, with Australia playing at home, the betting houses have South Africa as slight favourite to win the series.

It doesn’t matter what the experts say though, the series will be decided by the team that wants it more and plays the best on the field. My personal opinion is that it should be a close series.

On paper, South Africa’s batting line-up looks more robust, but their record in Australian conditions is nothing to tweet home about; and none of them has played a Test at the ‘Gabba before.

Last summer, the Australian batsmen handled the Indian attack comfortably. Against England the summer before they were found wanting. South Africa boasts an attack closer to England’s than India’s.

Michael Clarke could well be the key piece of the puzzle for Australia.

He had an outstanding series against India and has matured into the captaincy extremely well. With an aging batting list, Australia will need Clarke to lead from the front.

With the loss of Watson at the top of the order, ideally Clarke should slot into the number three position, but that doesn’t look likely on current thinking; it may be something that has to be considered though if the inexperienced top-order misfires in Brisbane.

Watson will be missed. He may not have been needed against India, but his all-round skills would have been handy against a much tougher South African unit. So much so that it could have swung the balance Australia’s way.

Not only will his all-round strength be missed. I believe his batting could have been decisive.

Shane has shown that he is a good player of pace bowling and is one of the best starters of an innings that I can remember; he gets to 30 faster and more consistently than most.

When he finally learns that all he has to do is to play each ball on its merit once he gets to thirty he will convert his many starts into big scores and become the most dangerous batsman in world cricket in all formats.

Even if he can’t bowl in time for the second Test in Adelaide, I would have him back in the side for his batting alone.

He can intimidate bowlers and he scores his runs quickly and that is something that should not be under-rated in what could be a close series.

Having time to bowl the opposition out twice is an important element shared by the better teams through the ages; occupying the crease is valuable, but scoring runs is still the more important skill.

South Africa boasts some experience in their line-up. Graeme Smith has played over 100 Tests and Kallis more than 150. Amla and AB de Villiers have now played in excess of 60 and 70 Tests respectively so they have seen it all before.

The extra workload of keeping wicket will be asking a lot of de Villiers and could reduce his output as a batsman. This will throw more responsibility on the broad shoulders of Smith, Amla and Kallis.

Kallis is one of the great warriors. He has to do the work of two men and has been doing it now, with great success, for 17 years.

At 37 years of age, one wonders how much longer he can keep up the workload and the incredible output.

Kallis is more inclined to accumulate his runs than dash, so, for South Africa to win, I believe they will need Smith and Amla to have successful series.

Firstly, it will mean the innings beginning well and it will also mean that South Africa scores its runs at a good clip.

Amla has been the good news story out of South Africa recently. After a slow start to his Test career, he has become a most prolific run getter in all conditions.

His 311 against England at The Oval earlier this year emphasised his quality and stamps him as an exceptional player.

The other portent from that innings that might be significant is that The Oval boasts a wicket that offers pace and bounce so it suggests that Amla might enjoy the batting conditions in Brisbane and Perth; if he does it could swing the contest in South Africa’s favour.

The first session of any Test match is laced with excitement and suspense.

Both teams will probably want to bowl first and make a statement with their big guns that will carry far more weight than the empty rhetoric that has been on offer so far.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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