The first Test between Australia and South Africa ended in a draw after five days of tedium which was dominated by loads and loads of runs. All hope is not lost, though, and there are still some burning questions to be asked – about the Proteas in particular and cricket in general. By ANT SIMS.
DOES CRICKET NEED A SUBSTITUTE RULE?
Cricket has a really cruel sense of humour. On the first day of play, after South Africa won the toss and chose to bat, JP Duminy was doing fielding drills at the end of a day’s play in which he had no part. Duminy landed awkwardly and snapped his Achilles tendon. The injury required an operation and will leave him out of action for at least six months.
It thwarted South Africa’s plans completely – they had opted for an all-pace attack, dropping Imran Tahir and handing Rory Kleinveldt his debut cap instead. Duminy is far from an all-rounder, but he was going to serve the role of part-time spinner on a very flat pitch. After he was ruled out of action, South Africa was a man short.
This raises the question of whether it’s time for cricket to consider a substitute rule, and how it should be implemented. Substitute fielders are commonplace, and while they are often misused, there certainly is room for making use of subs in extreme cases – especially in tight matches, where the loss of a bowler or batsman can dramatically affect the result of the game.
SHOULD CURATORS BE FINED?
While there was lots of talk about the possibility of the pitch turning in Brisbane, there was really little chance. While draws do have their time and place in cricket, tedious draws where batsmen can score with ease while bowlers are left to toil – even if they are bowling slightly poorly – should no longer be an acceptable standard in Test cricket.
Captains often get fined for minor offences such as slow over rates; players get fined for showing minor dissent; yet nobody ever bothers to ask questions of those who play a huge part in ensuring the standard of cricket on watch remains high.
Curators play a massive part in cricket and producing good pitches is an art form. The Gabba pitch was dreadful and the teams might as well have been playing on a squash court. The better the pitch, the higher the chances of people tuning in to watch, and with everybody so quick to jump the gun on the state of Test cricket – perhaps it’s time to really look at the role of curators and consider fines for those who fail to live up to the task of producing a good wicket.
WHAT’S UP WITH SOUTH AFRICA’S BOWLING?
South Africa have three bowlers in the top 10 of the ICC’s bowling rankings. The trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander is enough to send shivers down the spine of any batsman. Yet in the first Test, the three musketeers went through bursts of looking remarkably average and with Kleinveldt in the box, the bowlers conceded 23 no balls between them.
It’s not a new problem – Tahir has a similar issue with his no balls. There is something amiss from the fearsome bowlers, though. Whether it’s simply a bit of fatigue or whether bowling coach Allan Donald needs to relook some strategies, nobody knows, and performances will be under scrutiny in the second Test.
HOW LONG CAN DE VILLIERS KEEP IT UP BEHIND THE STUMPS?
During play, the Channel 9 commentators made an interesting observation. The slips alongside AB de Villiers were standing much closer to him than slips usually would. The ball doesn’t really travel all that much at The Gabba, and whether the positioning of the slips was tactical or whether it was because the skipper didn’t trust his keeper, nobody knows.
De Villiers has just recovered from two nagging injuries, and while he refutes claims that the extra workload is having an impact on his body – especially his back – one can’t help but wonder how long he can shoulder the extra responsibility before it starts not only impacting his body, but also his game.
The injury to Duminy does offer South Africa the ability to bring in centrally-contracted Thami Tsolekile to see whether he can step up, but it’s highly unlikely that the Lions’ gloveman will get a chance. Prior to the Australian series, Kirsten was adamant that De Villiers would don the gloves until the Australian series was over. Whether De Villiers’ body agrees with the coach is another story, though.
CAN THE CAPTAINCY GET ANY BETTER FOR MICHAEL CLARKE?
Since taking over as Australian skipper, Michael Clarke has scored 1659 runs at an average of 66.36 in 16 matches. Those knocks include six hundreds, two double hundreds – one of them unbeaten – and an unbeaten triple century.
Captaincy often takes its toll on players, but it seems to have done quite the opposite for Clarke. He’s had his dressing room troubles in the past, but Clarke can do no wrong at the moment. He’s previously admitted that he doesn’t want to carry on playing for much longer, but if he can continue his good form in the prime of his career, Clarke will undoubtedly go down as one of the legends of Australian cricket. DM
Photo: Australian players walk back to the pavilion after the end of their first test cricket match against South Africa at the Gabba in Brisbane November 13, 2012. The first test ended in a draw after the fifth and final day. REUTERS/Aman Sharma