South Africa vs. Australia: Player Ratings for Baggy Greens After 1st Test
For a sixth successive match, Australia carried out a brutal humiliation of their opponents, this time handing a 281-run defeat to the world No. 1 South Africa.
Excluding their early wobble with the bat on Day 1, Michael Clarke's side were rarely troubled by the hosts; Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith setting the platform for a Mitchell Johnson-led demolition of Graeme Smith and Co.
In a match that contained a startling resemblance to any number of Ashes Tests, perhaps the most significant takeaway is that Australia's resurgence can no longer be countered by pointing out the relative weakness of their opponents.
Suddenly, it's the world's very best side that is facing up to the same questions asked of England so relentlessly just a couple of months ago.
Australia, meanwhile, will march on to Port Elizabeth for the second Test with soaring confidence and the chance to wrap up a series victory.
But before we get there, here are our ratings for each Australian player after the first Test at Centurion.
Criteria and Explanation of Ratings
- First-innings runs carry more weight than those scored in the second innings.
- Runs scored in difficult situations are valued more highly than runs compiled when a team is well in front.
- The captain will be judged on his performance in the field in addition to his other contributions with bat or ball.
- Moments of brilliance or game-defining acts are looked upon favourably.
- Performing to a high standard in conditions that don't suit a player's skill set boost a player's rating.
- Acts of poor judgement, rather than poor execution, significantly hurt a player's rating.
Before employing a rating system, it's important to outline the key criteria used to award those ratings.
Of course, sheer weight of runs and wickets will largely determine a player's match rating. However, the following factors also have a significant bearing on the rating of each player:
With the bat: 4, 1
After an immensely successful Ashes campaign, Chris Rogers will be one of the few Australian players to be genuinely disappointed with his efforts at Centurion.
In the first innings, the gritty left-hander was made to look rather uncomfortable against the steep bounce of Morne Morkel when he fended away a short-pitched delivery to JP Duminy at short-leg.
In his second effort, the veteran left-hander rashly attempted a back-foot punch from Dale Steyn, only to chop it onto his stumps for just one.
Despite the resounding victory, Australia will hope for an improved performance from Rogers in Port Elizabeth.
With the bat: 12, 115
In the first Test against the South Africans, David Warner continued the habit he forged during the 2013-14 Ashes series, by making up for a disappointing first effort with a second-innings hundred.
After dragging a wide delivery back onto his stumps on Day 1, the aggressive left-hander thumped his way to a quick 115 to set up Australia's mammoth lead.
Although he was dropped on a number of occasions, the 27-year-old's ability to take a match away from an opponent in such short periods of time is a huge asset for Michael Clarke.
However, Australia will be keen for Warner to reverse his contributions, given that his ongoing early dismissals during his team's first innings are a large part of Australia's lingering top-order fragility.
With the bat: 27, 89
Making your debut as a No. 3 on a lively pitch against Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel is unquestionably the toughest introduction to Test cricket for a top-order batsman.
That Alex Doolan acquitted himself in a remarkably composed manner justified the excitement held by Australian selectors regarding the Tasmanian.
In Australia's first innings, the right-hander looked perfectly comfortable at the game's highest level, unfortunately falling for 27 despite the promising start.
In the second, Doolan put together an elegant and smooth 89 to drive South Africa into the ground alongside Warner. He also completed two remarkable catches off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson at short-leg.
With more than 100 runs in the Test, the team's selectors will have a hard decision to make with Shane Watson expected to be available for the match at Port Elizabeth.
With the bat: 148, 44
Supporters of Phillip Hughes—and other Australian batsmen toiling away in first-class cricket—will rightly argue that Shaun Marsh's record didn't justify his selection for this first Test at Centurion.
Essentially, the 30-year-old left-hander was picked on a hunch; the team's selectors feeling that Marsh owns both the ability and mental clarity to prosper at Test level, despite failing to show it previously.
The hunch paid off, with Marsh scoring a defiant century on the opening day to rescue Australia from another indifferent start with the bat.
Had it not been for his magnificent 148, Mitchell Johnson would have had a lot less runs to play with.
With the bat: 23, 17*
Michael Clarke has been a touch out of sorts with the bat since registering hundreds in the opening two Tests of the 2013-14 Ashes series.
At Centurion, the Australian skipper was undone by South Africa's predictable short-pitched approach, holing out to fine-leg off Steyn when attempting an unconvincing pull-shot.
However, Clarke's failure to score heavily since the Adelaide Test hasn't harmed his side's results.
The captain also continues to use his bowlers magnificently on the field; his handling of Johnson an example to captains worldwide in the use of genuinely fast bowlers.
With the bat: 100, DNB
The doubters—including this very writer—have been silenced. Steve Smith is now an integral cog in this Australian machine.
Unlike Warner and his tendency to score later in matches, Smith continues to score invaluable first-innings hundreds with his side flirting with collapse.
At Centurion—like he did in both Perth and Sydney—the 24-year-old breezed his way to a cool century, doing so alongside Marsh to haul Australia out of trouble and into a position of dominance.
Of course, his method remains unorthodox, his technique effective rather than textbook. But professional sport is a results-based domain, leaving Smith as one of the world's best batsmen at this point in time.
With the bat: 0, DNB
With the gloves: 4 dismissals
Brad Haddin was due for a poor match. The rate the 36-year-old had been playing at was inevitably going to end.
After scoring the most runs in an Ashes series by any wicket-keeper in the recent Australian summer, Haddin suffered his first failure for some time when he was caught leg before wicket (LBW) by Robin Peterson for naught in his side's first innings.
Yet, there was plenty of work for Haddin to do with the gloves, with Johnson's searing pace and bounce regularly forcing the veteran gloveman to go soaring into the air to hang onto the speedster's rapid deliveries.
With the ball: 7/68, 5/59
With the bat: 33, DNB
If we thought he couldn't possibly bowl with more hostility than he did in the Ashes, we were wrong.
Put simply, Mitchell Johnson's display at Centurion was one of the greatest fast-bowling performances of all-time.
Those who witnessed the left-armer's assault on South Africa on Day 2 will never forget it; Johnson savaging the home side's top order with some of the most brutal fast bowling ever seen.
Twelve wickets is another incredible return, but it's the manner with which they are captured that is most striking. Bruises are dished out, scars—both physical and mental—are inflicted upon every batsman who takes strike.
It is bowling at its most lethal, and it's truly magnificent to watch.
The only thing stopping him from claiming maximum marks? We need to leave room to move should he claim 15 wickets at Port Elizabeth.
With the ball: 0/51, 2/35
With the bat: 19, 0
Ryan Harris' high standards mean the bustling right-armer will be disappointed with his first-innings display against the Proteas.
While Johnson wreaked havoc at the other end, Harris' usually ever present threat was somewhat lacking, as the home side dealt with the 34-year-old rather comfortably on a lively wicket.
Harris was markedly better in the second innings, picking up two wickets—including that of Hashim Amla—to return to his customary standard, helping to bury an uninspired host outfit.
With the ball: 1/33, 2/55
With the bat: 2
It must be a privilege for Clarke to turn to Peter Siddle after an opening burst from Harris and Johnson.
Such is the right-armer's relentless work ethic, opposing teams simply receive no respite from Australia's world-class pace barrage, with Siddle's unerring accuracy and length stifling the batsmen and setting a platform for Johnson.
That was the case again at Centurion, as Siddle's miserly ways kept South Africa in check at all times; his contribution being enhanced by three important wickets in the Test.
With the ball: 2/38, 0/33
With the bat: 4*, DNB
While Johnson continues to steal all the headlines, Nathan Lyon is perhaps Australia's biggest advantage in this series.
Of course, Johnson is currently operating in rarefied air, but when at his best, Steyn can destroy Australia's line-up, albeit in a far contrasting fashion.
Lyon, however, is the leading spinner in this series by quite a distance—the treatment of Robin Peterson by Australia highlighting the importance of Lyon.
At Centurion, he continued to show his improvement, picking up two wickets on a seamer-friendly surface and ensuring South Africa were regularly moving nowhere during his tight spells.