Tom Sizeland highlights five points of discussion ahead of the second Test in Hobart, starting Saturday.
RIDE THE MOMENTUM
At one point in the first Test, Australia were on 158-0 in response to the Proteas’ 242 all out. From there it was complete and utter domination from the South Africans. There’s no reason why Faf du Plessis’ charges can’t continue the assault. What was particularly pleasing was that the younger, more inexperienced players starred. Kagiso Rabada was Man of the Match, Temba Bavuma was brilliant across all disciplines, Quinton de Kock made a pair of fifties, and debutant Keshav Maharaj stepped up with four wickets. One way or another, everyone in the team pulled their weight to complete the emphatic victory, and there seems to be a lot of togetherness and spirit in the camp at the moment. The Proteas have all the momentum and confidence to wrap up their third-consecutive series Down Under.
The Bellerive Oval is used sparingly on the Test circuit, but the Board might want to reconsider that, for the Australians have been dominant here. In 12 Tests, the hosts have won 11 of them, with the most recent one being an innings and 212-run victory against West Indies last year. This will be new territory for the Proteas. They’ve never played a Test here and they’ve only played one ODI against Australia here, a five-run defeat back in 2009. History suggests it’s definitely a bat-first venue. Australia’s previous five first-innings scores are astonishing. 542-5, 519-8, 450-5, 583-4, 558-8. With rain expected for the first two days, scoring big and scoring quickly up front will be the priority.
SMITH UNDER PRESSURE
Australia have now lost four Tests in a row, which is almost unheard of, and naturally, their skipper is under huge pressure to deliver the goods. It was also Australia’s first loss in an opening Test of their home season in 28 years. There are only three names that really stand out in that team at the moment (Smith, Warner, Starc) and that’s not enough to carry a side to victory. Smith’s own form isn’t too bad, but he needs to get the best out of his largely inexperienced team pretty quickly, or he might find himself out of a job if the Proteas continue to dig into their opponents. He’s also decided to respond to Graeme Smith’s comments that he looks ‘a bit lost’, responding with ‘I’m not sure what Graeme Smith knows about Australian cricket’. He should have just left that alone and concentrated on the match ahead.
ABBOTT? MORKEL? BOTH?
The big talking point going into this match is which seamer Russell Domingo will decide to go for. HD Ackerman mentioned in his column on Thursday that Kyle Abbott should be the go-to man. He’s a workhorse and always performs when he’s selected. The injury to Dale Steyn in the last match might hamper Morkel’s chances of being picked as he looks to get back into the action following his back injury. However, with the news that heavy rain is expected over the first two days and given the fact that only 14 wickets have been taken out of a possible 168 from spin, Keshav Maharaj might be the man to be left out. It would be really harsh on the Dolphins spinner considering how well he played at the Waca, but four seamers might give them more chance of taking 20 wickets in what could be a three-and-a-half day encounter.
SIDDLE WILL BE MISSED
I find Peter Siddle to be a very underrated bowler, and Australia are going to miss his services. He gives away very little and constantly applies the pressure. He’s got an excellent record at Hobart – in fact he’s got the best record for a fast bowler there, with 22 wickets at 15.72. He took important wickets in the first Test, and his absence means they’ve opted to bring in a debutant, Joe Mennie. Most of the South Africans would have faced the tall right-hander, either in the ODI series or in the ‘A’ series a few months ago. It’s worth noting that he took five-wicket hauls in both four-day matches against SA A, with Dean Elgar, Stephen Cook, Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander all falling victim to him. He’s got a good first-class record, so the Proteas won’t want to take him too lightly. Nonetheless, losing 62 caps of Test experience in Siddle will be a blow to the hosts.
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