South Africa and Australia Show How the Ball Can Be as Exciting as the Bat

Russell HughesContributor IIINovember 18, 2011

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - NOVEMBER 18:  Dale Steyn of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Michael Hussey of Australia for 20 runs during day 2 of the 2nd Test match between South Africa and Australia at Bidvest Wanderers on November 18, 2011 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

Recent cricket history has seemed to suggest that, in the competition between bat and ball, bat was winning outright. The bat has become a giant behemoth of a thing, more like a double-headed axe than a piece of sporting equipment, as cricket manufacturers trip over each other to make a bat with the thickest edges, the largest sweet spot, the lightest pickup.

All these factors seemed to indicate that bowlers would soon become the forgotten men on cricket, that they would become something that is necessary for the game to take place but could just hang around in the background, looking shy and not hogging any of the batsmen’s limelight.

However, the ongoing test series between South Africa and Australia has caused many a spectator and pundit to wake up out of the six-hitting, bit-edged batting fest. The reason? Wickets. Plenty of wickets.

The first test match was one of the most thrilling, depressing and enjoyable games of sport that I have watched in a long time, and the best news was that it lasted for two days. It was a record breaker and a heart breaker, and it showcased why test cricket is the ultimate stage for players to prove themselves.

The wickets that tumbled were not the fault of some Jekyll and Hyde pitch. It wasn’t hideously prepared or over bowler friendly. Bowlers just did what they had been taught to do: run in, hit the seam and bowl straight.

Sure, shot selection was an issue in some dismissals (Brad Haddin, hang your head in shame) but by and large it was just excellent bowling that caused both sides' batting orders to melt like an ice cream on a hot day.

The same has happened in the second test so far. Both sides got off to a good start, but then the bowlers started to bowl properly and they got their reward. South Africa lost their last six wickets for 45 runs, while Australia lost 10 wickets for 122 runs.

The result? A fantastic test series that shows the world why test cricket can be exciting without any run scoring.