South Africa show why their attack is the best in the world

The Second Test between South Africa and Australia ended with a resounding 231 run win to South Africa.

At the end of first day, South Africa were 214/5, a day of attritional cricket. It is fair to say that both batting and bowling were difficult. South Africa could not score freely and Australia with all the might of MO wielding Johnson could not get many breakthroughs. Of the five that did fell, two were gifted by South African batsmen going after the Australian spinner Lyon.

If there was a wicket to negate the Australian pace battery,this was it.The pitch had little to offer for fast bowlers. No grass. The pace and bounce was almost like a Delhi wicket.Not much swing with the new ball either. It was the kind of wicket where the Indian bowlers would have conceded 700 before they got the fifth wicket.

With the lack of bounce in the pitch, Mitchell Johnson’s threat was greatly reduced. There was no conventional swing, so Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle could not buy many wickets in spite of toiling away. Lyon, the lone spinner did pose some questions and pick up five wickets in the first innings, but the South Africans played him with caution and made sure that wickets did not fall in a cluster.

In contrast, the South Africans were able to extract whatever little the conditions had to offer. In the first innings, just a little bit of conventional swing and in the later part of the first innings and also in the second innings a lot of reverse swing. The South African bowlers managed to bowl Australia out twice for less then 250, the second time with one of their quickies out due an injury.

For me two words defined the South African bowling – skill and intensity. The could not have achieved the result if they had a little bit less on either of those two. The Australian bowlers did not lack intensity, but were no match for South Africans’ skills. The spell of reverse swing in the second innings where Steyn demolished the Australian middle order (Clarke, Smith and Haddin) was absoutely magical. One former cricketer tweeted “Haddin knew what was coming, he is in good form too, but could not do anything about it.Steyn is that good.”

Coming to intensity, never did any South African bowler look like he was bowling a little within himself. Even in the second innings where South Africa potentially had to come back the next day to bowl again, there was no holding back. It would have been interesting if they would have been able to sustain it, had Australia managed to hold out for about 30 more overs, alas the Australian batting was too fragile to hold out against this attack.

Also, one thing the South Africans did was move their slip fielders very close to account for the low bounce. They were standing at about a quarter of the pitch length for Steyn and Morkel. I hope the Indian team watches these things and learns. Our bowlers are not as quick as the South Africans, but still there is alot of reluctance to come up closer even if balls keep falling short.

This result sets the series up wonderfully. The final Test is in Cape Town which will offer more for the Australian bowlers and Johnson will be back in his element. It promises to be yet another fantastic Test.

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