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Time will tell if captain Clarke’s challenge up to test

09 January 2014
Sports Talk, with Neale Emslie
WAS Michael Clarke just initiating the psychological warfare or was he being genuine when he said the Australian pace attack was the best in the world following their demolition job on the hapless Englishmen in the Ashes series?

Whatever his intention, the Australian cricket captain has undoubtedly caught the attention of the SA fans, and his comments will surely not have gone unnoticed by SA skipper Graeme Smith and his team.

It all points to a fascinating battle when the high-riding Australians arrive in South Africa next month for a three-test series.

There can be little dispute that the Proteas pace trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel have set the standards in world cricket in recent seasons. They have dismissed three teams – Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan – for totals under 50 in the last two seasons and have been largely responsible for test series wins over leading nations England, Australia and India.

So Clarke’s comments may be a little misguided, but the Aussies were so gung-ho after reclaiming the Ashes that it was inevitable such opinions would emerge.

That is not to say Clarke is too far off the mark. With Mitchell Johnson in the best form of his career, some of the pressure has been taken off the rest of the attack and they were able to feed off his magnificent efforts during the Ashes series.

But the Aussies know that one swallow does not make a summer and their bowlers have much to prove before they can be labelled the best in the world.

Nonetheless, Smith and company will have had their attention fully sharpened for next month’s series and the SA batsmen will have to demonstrate their courage and technique in no small doses.

There is no stabilising Jacques Kallis anymore and less experienced players in the test lineup, like Alviro Petersen, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis, will need to step up to the mark if SA are not to be blown away by the revitalised Aussie attack.

A further incentive for the home team is that, despite successive series wins in Australia, SA have yet to win at home against the Aussies since the end of isolation in 1991.

Six test series have been played between the two sides since 1993-94, with Australia winning four and two (1993-94 and 2011-12) being shared.

The Aussies have won 11 tests in SA against the home side’s five. Only one match in those series has been drawn.

The Proteas are top of the test world at the moment. Next month, they face arguably their most serious challenge yet.


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