Qantas Tour of South Africa

Reverse swing set to be the key in PE

Australians expecting repeat of conditions in 2014 for second Test against the Proteas in Port Elizabeth


06 March 2018, 06:30 PM

Reverse-swing king Mitchell Starc looms as Australia's trump card again as they seek a 2-0 series lead in Port Elizabeth.

Starc earned man-of-the-match honours in Durban, snaring nine wickets and scoring a quickfire 35 in Australia's first innings of the 118-run win.

The performance resulted in Starc rising up to a career-best fifth spot on the International Cricket Council's Test bowling rankings.

The left-armer was almost unplayable once the old ball started to reverse, snagging five wickets in a session on day two then a triple-wicket maiden on day four.

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Chatter about just how early reverse swing is attained - and the attached implications about whether anything illegal is being done to make it happen - is a near constant whenever significant movement is produced.

At Kingsmead, both sides made use of a particularly abrasive wicket block and dry pitch, but Starc controlled the swinging ball better than any other bowler.

The second Test starts on Friday at St George's Park, a venue renowned for slow and low decks similar to what was produced in Durban.

Dale Steyn put on a reverse-swing masterclass during Australia's most-recent Test at the ground, in 2014, creating a collapse of 10-90 in a comfortable victory.

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"We think Port Elizabeth will be very similar (to Durban) - it was last time," coach Darren Lehmann said.

"I expect it (reverse-swing) to happen again. Both sides are very good exponents of it.

"Very rarely do you see it happen day one, first session (like it did in Durban). That means the wicket is really dry. Obviously, there are techniques used by both sides to get the ball to reverse and that's just the way the game goes. I have no problems with it.

"I don't mind the ball moving."

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Starc insisted he had plenty of room for improvement despite his strong showing at Kingsmead.

"The reversing ball is going all right this season. There's maybe a little bit of work to do with the new ball and getting a few more early wickets," he said.

"It's nice to put a few in the right spot. To finish off a Test match like that over four-and-a-bit days was pretty pleasing."

South African captain Faf du Plessis was full of praise for Starc after the first Test, especially the way he clinically cleaned up the hosts' tail.

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"There was a real difference in skill with the reverse swing," said du Plessis.

"Starc reverse swings the ball at pace and the only (similar) weapon we have right now is Kagiso (Rabada). The tail are going to have to scrap and get as many runs as possible."

Qantas tour of South Africa

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.

Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights

First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13. Live coverage

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage