Australia Recommence Winning Ways

James MortimerAnalyst IDecember 2, 2008

Recording an impressive 2-0 series win against New Zealand, Australia restored cricketing maxim, but the real test will be against the incoming South Africans.


Despite confident sounds from the Black Caps coming into this game, it was unlikely that the now eighth ranked test team (this series loss has dropped them below the West Indies) would have either the players or the game to compete against Australia.


The second test was summed up by the commentators: “to take advantage of Adelaide, you need either turning spinners or all out fast bowlers”.  Daniel Vettori is a bowler that likes to attack in the air, not off the pitch—and New Zealand do not have the bowling arsenal to threaten Australia on their own turf.


This is, in essence, the difference between teams on home territory. The baggy greens swashbuckling batting order and their pace batteries are tailor made for the decks of Australia.


While the series loss in India had many crying the demise of the hegemony of Australia cricket, India—at probably their most powerful ever personnel wise—has a team designed to compete on subcontinent pitches.


Michael Clarke, named player of the series, and Brett Lee, the man of the match in Adelaide, were far different players back in the comfort of their home country.


Lee, in theory the spearhead of the Australian attack, was a non entity in India, but was back to his best taking 12 wickets in the two tests (he took only eight in four tests against India). Lee has now taken over 300 test wickets, but interestingly, is the only player in history to pass this mark without taking six wickets in an innings.


But this series has also seen the continued emergence of Mitchell Johnson, now the best fast bowler in Australian colours this season. After being the leading wicket taker in India with 13 wickets, he led the attacks in the Trans Tasman series taking 14 at a brilliant average of 11. 


New Zealand, missing Jacob Oram and having lost players to the lucrative Indian leagues struggled; not only to take Australian wickets but also with a very inexperienced and exposed batting order.


No New Zealand batsmen averages even in the late thirties, and only three times did Black Cap batsmen pass 50 runs. Such poor returns ensured that Australia was realistically never challenged.


There were the trademark flurries from New Zealand, as they always throw occasional well aimed punches at the proverbial big brother that is Australia. In the first innings in Brisbane, the Black Caps had Australia reeling at 3-23. In the first innings in Adelaide, New Zealand were 1-100. 


That essentially remains the difference between the two teams. New Zealand can occasionally upset the balance, but it was the overall multi day presence that the home team imposed on their minnow neighbours that ensured the series was always going to be a whitewash.


New Zealand must now regroup, with Coach John Bracewell departing the setup. While he has been instrumental in their strong showings as a one day side—They have struggled in the five day format, not winning a test away from home against anyone but Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.


Incoming coach, Englishmen Andy Moles has an extensive background in cricket, playing for Warwickshire and Griqualand West, scoring over 15,000 runs at first class level, but never has he been in the elite bracket. The former Kenya and Scotland coach has strong goals; stating that he wishes to push New Zealand into the top five of the world within a year.


For Australia, a win against New Zealand must be seen in perspective. Graeme Smith and his proteas are the second ranked team in the world, and are unbeaten in their last nine test series. 


The South African batting order of Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Neil McKenzie, and Mark Boucher will combine with Jacques Kallis. Kallis, on paper South Africa’s best batsmen, is in a similar state of vein to Matthew Hayden—realistically out of form and running out of chances in the top team.


Australia will also be exposed to pace spearhead Dale Steyn. The 2008 ICC test player of the year—who overtook Allan Donald as the fastest protea to take 100 test wickets will enjoy the grounds of Australia.


South Africa will play three tests against Australia; Number one V number two in the world. The visitors have not beaten Australia at home since their readmission in 1991, and many believe that this will be their best chance.



New Zealand’s tour of Australia

1st Test v Australia at Brisbane - Nov 20-23, 2008
Australia won by 149 runs
Australia 214 and 268; New Zealand 156 and 177

2nd Test v Australia at Adelaide - Nov 28-Dec 1, 2008
Australia won by an innings and 62 runs
New Zealand 270 and 203; Australia 535


South Africa’s tour of Australia

1st Test v Australia at Perth - Dec 17-21, 2008

2nd Test v Australia at Melbourne - Dec 26-30, 2008

3rd Test v Australia at Sydney - Jan 3-7, 2009