Proteas vs Australia: plenty at stake
1 November 2012
South Africa's tour of Australia begins on Friday with the Proteas taking on Australia A in a three-day game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The first of three tests begins a week later in Brisbane.
While the tour Down Under is a short one, lasting only a month and including just the four matches, it is hugely significant. The Proteas are in Australia, as the world's top ranked test playing nation, looking to build on their 2-0 series victory over then number one ranked England in August and September. The Australians occupy third place in the rankings.
South Africa's record away from home is very impressive. The last time they lost an away series was way back in mid-2006 when Sri Lanka scored a 2-0 series victory.
On their most recent tour of Australia in 2008/09, the Proteas won the first test by six wickets and romped to a nine-wicket win in the second test before Australia scored a consolation 103-run victory in the third test, with just five minutes and 10 balls left in the contest.
It was the first time that South Africa had won a series Down Under. Now, in 2012, they have a team that is determined and primed to repeat that feat.
If Graeme Smith and company had won that third test, they would have taken over as the world's number one ranked team, so they will want to be more clinical in the defence of the number one ranking that they now own. Eight players from that tour remain in the Proteas squad.
ICC test team of the year
Five of those player - Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Vernon Philander and AB de Villiers - were selected in the International Cricket Council's 12-man test team of the year at the end of August. Michael Clarke was the only Australian in the team, but was named its captain.
In an interview with Cricket South Africa, Smith gave the reasons he believes the Proteas have been so successful away from home, saying: "The maturity of the team in terms of growing has been a key factor in our development.
"In addition, the players are settled and are able to adjust, not only on the pitch but off the field," Smith said.
"The team handles being away from home in a good space and in a mature way, which is a big factor in today's world."
He added: "It's about understanding what you need to do and how you are going to be successful in the environment that you are playing in. We have a few experienced guys around that have toured a fair bit and hopefully they will use their knowledge well."
South Africa heads into the series with a pace bowling trio, made up of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, that is the envy of other test playing countries.
Steyn, who bowls with pace and swing, is top of the test bowling rankings. Philander, who nips the ball both ways off the seam, is number two in the rankings, and Morkel, with his pace and steep bounce, occupies ninth place.
Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald commented: "They have been bowling together for some time. The momentum has been built over the last couple of years and the consistency in selection has helped.
"It is nice to have a group of guys who know what they are about and coming to Australia is as big as it gets."
Coach Gary Kirsten said he is happy that his charges will face quality opposition in their only outing before the test series starts. "It's actually nice that we have a really competitive game," Kirsten said.
"It is something that we needed. A few of our guys have had some time off and the other half played in the Champions League T20.
"My experience of playing against Australia A has always been of a highly competitive game. I think it will be very good for us."
SOUTH AFRICAN SQUAD
Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Rory Kleinveldt, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile
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