South Africa scrapped its way to a gritty draw in Adelaide in one of the most nail-biting Tests in recent history, with a rate of under two runs an over. The cricket’s done and dusted, but the questions never are. By ANT SIMS.
Where to now for Imran Tahir?
Imran Tahir had a torrid time in Adelaide. So torrid, in fact, that he broke an unlikely record: the most expensive bowler in the history of a game without a wicket. His bowling average in Tests has shot up to over 50 – hardly convincing for an international Test player.
While Tahir has had his moments of genius, he’s always followed them up with moments of sheer horror. When he got Ed Cowan out, Tahir walked over to the Australian crowd and raised his hand to his ear, as if to say: “Say something now.” The Aussie crowd had the last laugh, though, as Tahir’s wicket was off a no ball and he went back to dishing up dross and being whacked around the park for the rest of his innings.
That Tahir has talent, there is no doubt, but he is not refined enough to be a Test player. The expectations seem to have weighed heavily on the Pakistan-born leggie and he probably won’t play at Perth. Robin Peterson is likely to replace him, not just in a spinning role, but also to strengthen South Africa’s batting.
How Tahir is managed after falling by the wayside will be crucial, and his time in limbo will have to be managed very carefully.
How many more chances for Jacques Rudolph?
Rudolph looked the scratchiest out of all the South African batsmen at Adelaide. Since his return to the South African side, Rudolph has averaged just 33.00, a smidgen below is overall average of 34.43. He’s not had the best of times on the international stage, and while shifting him up and down the order hasn’t helped his cause, it might be time to let go.
He’s had a tremendous first-class career, but Rudolph has never quite been able to translate that form onto the international stage. He’s now 31, and it might be time to find a younger, hungrier player. With the way Faf du Plessis performed at Adelaide, the pressure will certainly be on.
Which Mitch for Australia?
James Pattinson became another victim in the long list of casualties from the tour. He’s out of cricket for the rest of the year, and Australia now has to pick somebody to replace him.
Fruitcake bowler Mitchell Johnson has been called up to the Australian side for the first time in a year. Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings have also earned call-ups, while Mitchell Starc has been part of the squad since the start of the tour.
Opting for a left-arm quick is the most logical option for Australia, as it mixes up the bowling just a little bit more. Starc has played four Tests for Australia and picked up 10 wickets in those matches, but considering the way young Aussie quicks seem to fall apart after they step onto the Test cricket stage, it might be tempting to give Johnson one last roll of the dice. Johnson has been in reasonable form in Shield cricket, picking up 17 wickets at an average of 29.00 in the five matches he’s played. It’s been a year since the 31-year-old last played for Australia, and whether they want to risk Johnson’s waywardness is a curious question.
Does anybody actually want to be number one?
The ICC Test rankings are a peculiar thing. As soon as a team goes to the top, it suddenly seems to lose form and buckle under the weight of the achievement. It doesn’t look like any side currently wants to be number one, and while South Africa, Australia, India and England are probably the most balanced sides in Test cricket at the moment, the ranking system is odd and sometimes contradictory. South Africa might have scraped through at Adelaide, but their efforts were hardly the mark of a number-one ranked team. Does any team actually want the burden of being the best, or should we just kiss the ranking system goodbye?
Is Michael Clarke a flat track bully?
The Australian skipper has had an epic year. In the Test at Adelaide, he became the first player in history to score four double hundreds in a calendar year. He’s notched up 1,309 runs in the year at an average of 119. Out of those 1,309 runs, 1,028 have been scored at home on fairly placid pitches. Away from home this year, the skipper averaged just over 31 in six innings and only passed 50 twice.
Sure, Clarke is immensely talented and he seemingly can’t stop scoring runs at the moment, but his runs have hardly come in testing conditions. Not that scoring runs in conditions where he is comfortable should take anything away from his achievements, but it is worth noting that he has racked up the bulk of his runs on home soil. DM
Photo: Australia's Ben Hilfenhaus (L) tries to avoid colliding with South Africa's Morne Morkel as he fields the ball during the fourth day's play of the second test cricket match at the Adelaide cricket ground November 25, 2012. REUTERS/Regi Varghese