Specials – Moments from Australia v Bangladesh Test history

  Australia and Bangladesh will be facing each other in whites after more than 11 years when they begin their two-Test series in Dhaka on August 27. The history between them in the longest format is brief – only four matches across two series have been played since 2003. Nevertheless, these Tests have had their share of conspicuous moments, not to mention a few stirring performances.

Darwin and Cairns join the Test club

  As part of Cricket Australia’s plan to host off-season matches at unexplored locations, two new venues were welcomed into the Test fold for Australia’s inaugural series against Bangladesh in 2003. The Marrara Oval in Darwin and the Bundaberg Rum Stadium in Cairns became the 89th and 90th Test venues respectively.

  To nobody’s surprise, Australia notched a comfortable 2-0 victory courtesy of resounding innings wins in both games. The gap in both, experience and skill, was evident on the first day of the first Test itself as Bangladesh, led by Khaled Mahmud, were shot out for 97. The win at Darwin was Steve Waugh’s 37th as captain, overhauling Clive Lloyd’s record.

Boof’s beefy blade, Love’s final fling

  Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann had scored his maiden Test ton, at the age of 33, against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in April 2003. Three months later, he took a liking to the raw Bangladeshi attack and amassed two more centuries, ending as the series’ highest run-getter. At Darwin, he walked in at 43/2 and scored 110, while at Cairns, he top-scored with a career-best 177 from just 207 balls.

    Opener Shahriar Nafees scored 138 on the first day at Fatullah in 2005-06, as Bangladesh gave a massive scare to Australia (source – AFP/farjana godhuly)

  Also playing in the series for Australia was three-Test-old Martin Love, who, like Lehmann, was an ace batsman in the first-class arena. His outing at Darwin was forgettable as he was castled by Mashrafe Mortaza for a golden duck. However, he made amends with an unbeaten 100 at Cairns, sharing in a fifth-wicket stand of 174 with Lehmann. This would be Love’s final Test innings.

Shahriar Nafees leaves the world champions stunned

  A weary Australian side began their first Test in Bangladesh, in 2005-06, just five days after their series-sweeping win in the third Test in South Africa. It was also the first Test to be played at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah. The opening day belonged to 20-year-old southpaw Shahriar Nafees, who launched into the unsuspecting bowlers with aplomb.

  At lunch, Bangladesh’s score was a scarcely believable 144/1. Nafees, uninhibited and unleashed, added 187 for the second wicket with his captain Habibul Bashar and galloped to a maiden first-class hundred in 131 balls. He was eventually dismissed for 138, lit with 19 fours, a knock that powered Bangladesh to 355/5 at stumps. The great Shane Warne was taken for 112 off 20 wicketless overs.

Gilchrist and Ponting save Australia the blushes

  Replying to Bangladesh’s 427 in the first Test at Fatullah in 2005-06, Australia were gasping for breath at 93/6. Less than a year ago, the Tigers had beaten Australia in an ODI, and now, they had reason to feel upbeat about a potentially bigger upset. Adam Gilchrist, batting at six, provided relief to his confounded teammates with a timely 144 that restricted Bangladesh’s lead to 158.

  A poor show from the Bangladeshi batsmen in the second innings brought Australia back into the game, but a target of 307 was a challenge on a deteriorating wicket. Captain Ricky Ponting calmly responded to the pressure, keeping left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique (4/98, 9/160 in the match) at bay and constructing a restrained, unbeaten 118 to steer Australia to a tense three-wicket win.

    Jason Gillespie smiles after his record-breaking double century at Chittagong in 2005-06 (source – gettyimages/cricket.com.au)

Magical MacGill – Bangladesh’s bogeyman

  Even though he plied his trade under the shadow of Shane Warne, leg-spinner Stuart MacGill almost always delivered when given the opportunity. Bangladesh’s batsmen would know this well, for MacGill has scalped 33 wickets in four matches against them, 14 more than anyone else in Australia v Bangladesh fixtures. Moreover, he boasts of an average of 15.75 and four five-wicket hauls.

  His first assignment against Bangladesh, at Darwin in 2003, saw him pick 7/86, including 5/65 in the second innings. He bettered these in the second Test at Cairns, taking 10/133 (5/77 and 5/56) to be named player of the match and series. In 2005-06, he recorded a career-best return of 8/108 in the first innings at Fatullah, and gathered eight more from the next three innings in the series.

Dizzy’s sensational vigil enters the record books

  Having broken out of jail in the Fatullah Test, Australia restored normality at Chittagong, winning by an innings and 80 runs to seal the series. The match was notable for one of the most remarkable innings of all time – the only Test double century by a nightwatchman. This honour went to the sprightly paceman Jason Gillespie, in what was to be his last international appearance.

  ‘Dizzy’ came in at number three late on the first day, after his 3/11 had kept Bangladesh to 197. Three days later, on his 31st birthday, he was still in the middle, having doggedly batted nine hours and 34 minutes for 201*, when Australia declared at the fall of Michael Hussey, with whom he put on 320 for the fourth wicket. Before this, Gillespie had never passed 58 in first-class cricket.    

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Specials – The Greatest Ashes Tests, Part 3

  In this third and concluding part, we look back at three modern-day cliffhangers that further enhanced the Anglo-Australian rivalry:

4th Test, Melbourne, 1982-83

  Following the disappointment of 1981, Australia made amends the next time by winning the 1982-83 home series 2-1. However, it could well have been 3-0 had England not won a most thrilling fourth Test at the MCG by a mere three runs.

  After being inserted by Australia, England slumped to 56/3. Chris Tavare and Allan Lamb then put on 165 runs for the fourth wicket before Tavare was dismissed for 89. Lamb followed ten runs later for an attacking 83.

  At 259/5 with Ian Botham looking in ominous form, England seemed to be in control. But the pace duo of Rodney Hogg (4/69) and Bruce Yardley (4/89) dismantled the lower order and England were all out for 284.

  On day two, the hosts too had a poor beginning but Kim Hughes (66) and David Hookes (53) rescued their side from the trouble of 89/4 with a 91-run stand for the fifth wicket. Rodney Marsh scored 53 as well, while adding 81 runs for the sixth wicket with Hughes. Australia then lost their last five wickets for 26, finishing the second day at 287 and a lead of only 3 runs. Bob Willis took 3/38.

  In their second innings, England went from 40/0 to 45/3 and Australia had the momentum. Greame Fowler, who top-scored with 65, added a vital 83 with Lamb for the fourth wicket before both of them were out within a run of each other to make the score 129/5.

  Botham cracked a rapid 46 from as many balls and when he was dismissed the score was 201/7. At that point, wicketkeeper Bob Taylor joined Derek Pringle and the two put on 61 for the eighth wicket to boost the total, which eventually came up to 294. Geoff Lawson was Australia’s best bowler with 4/66.

  Australia had two full days to reach the target of 292. The top order failed to perform again as they were reduced to 71/3. Again, Hughes and Hookes came to the rescue as they put on 100 for the fourth wicket and Australia seemed to be on course at 171/3.

bothamMelbourne_narrowweb__300x366,0     Ian Botham (left) celebrates with captain Bob Willis after dismissing last man Jeff Thomson to help England win by 3 runs at Melbourne (source – theage.com.au)

  But the hosts then ran into the unheralded fast bowler Norman Cowans (6/77), who along with the support of his fellow bowlers ensured that Australia slip to 190/7. Allan Border (62*), who came in at number six, kept watching as wickets tumbled at the other end, the ninth falling at 218. Jeff Thomson came out to join him in the middle.

  The two led their team to 255/9 with a day left. On the final day, they did everything right until just four runs were needed, when Thomson was caught at first slip by Geoff Miller off Ian Botham to script a three- run win for England and break the hearts of the full-house crowd. The final Test was drawn and Australia regained the Ashes.

2nd Test, Edgbaston, 2005

  This great Test match is easily one of the best ever played and to many the very best of them all. Australia came into this series on the back of eight successive Ashes series wins dating back to 1989 and it was business as usual for them as they whipped the hosts by 239 runs in the opening Test at Lord’s.

  Then in a massive stoke of luck, England’s tormentor Glenn McGrath (who took 9/82 at Lord’s) twisted his ankle after treading on a ball in a nets session just before this Test. England seemed to have got a psychological boost and it showed in this match, a game which changed the course of  this memorable series.

  Ricky Ponting seemed to have made an error when he decided to put England in despite lacking his strike bowler. As it turned out, Australia were seriously missing the sting in their bowling as the English openers Marcus Trescothick (top-scoring with 90) and Andrew Strauss raced to a stand of 112 in just over 25 overs.

  Australia fought back to reduce England to 187/4, but the run-rate at that point was an astonishing five runs an over. Kevin Pietersen (71) and Andrew Flintoff (68) then added to the visitors’ misery, putting on 103 off just 105 balls for the fifth wicket. Useful runs from the tail meant that England ended the first day after being all out for 407 – a run rate of 5.17

  On the second day, Australia’s reply revolved around opener Justin Langer’s resolute 82, aided by Ponting’s counter-attacking 61. Australia too maintained a run rate of above four an over, but a bit more patience would have been beneficial – as Langer as showed – with their final total reading 308.

  The last five wickets fell for just 46 runs. Flintoff and Ashley Giles bagged three scalps each. With a handy first-innings lead of 99, England ended the day at 25/1, Shane Warne removing Strauss. On the third day, the spin and pace combination of Warne and Brett Lee ripped through the English batting.

  From 25/0 the home team went to 31/4 and further to 131/9. But the dependable Flintoff was still there and he found a willing ally in last man Simon Jones, who helped him in a priceless last-wicket stand of 51. Flintoff went on the rampage, striking 73 which included four sixes to spruce up the total to 182. Warne finished with 6/46 and Lee 4/82.

Brett-Lee-001  Brett Lee is consoled by Andrew Flintoff after England beat Australia by just two runs in the thrilling Edgbaston Test of 2005 (source – guardian.co.uk)

  Australia began their chase of 282 well with a 47-run opening stand, but Flintoff played game-changer again. He removed Langer and Ponting (for a duck) in the same over. From that point, England were buoyed and Australia kept losing wickets, sliding to 137/7. 

  Michael Clarke grimly held fort before he too fell to Steve Harmison as Australia ended the fourth day at 175/8, still needing 107 to win. On the final day, Warne and Lee added 45 for the ninth wicket before an unfortunate Warne was out hit wicket to Flintoff (4/79) for 42.

  At 220/9, Michael Kasprowicz joined Lee. The two quietly set about whittling down the target and England were fast feeling the heat as the tension gradually reached tipping point. With 15 to win, Simon Jones dropped Kasprowicz. England’s last chance seemed to have gone.

  With Australia just three runs away, Harmison banged one into the left glove of Kasprowicz, who played it down the leg side. Within the next second, wicketkeeper Geraint Jones completed the winning catch to send the crowd into a frenzy.

  Television replays later showed that the ball had slightly brushed the glove and umpire Billy Bowden had failed to notice it. However, it would have been nearly impossible to detect amid the pressure-cooker situation. England had won by just two runs – the smallest margin ever in an Ashes Test.

  Lee, who remained not out on 43, was distraught and the image of him being consoled by man of the match Flintoff remains the defining moment of the series. The Ashes were alive and England went on to win the series 2-1, regaining the urn after 18 long years.

1st Test, Cardiff 2009

  This was the first Test to be played in Wales. England were on a mission to regain the Ashes after the humiliating whitewash of 2006-07. They began the first day ordinarily, getting reduced to 90/3 before Kevin Pietersen (69) and Paul Collingwood (64) added 138 for the fourth wicket.

  Thanks to Matthew Prior’s 56 and useful contributions from the tail, England’s total swelled to 435. In reply, Australia were led by a partnership of 239 for the second wicket between Simon Katich (122) and Ricky Ponting (150). Michael Clarke (83) and Marcus North (125*) added 143 for the fifth wicket as Australia ended the third day at 479/5.

James Anderson celebrates securing the draw with Monty Panesar      Monty Panesar (left) is relieved while James Anderson is jubiliant after the two defied Australia to help England escape with a draw (source – guardian.co.uk)

  The game looked to be heading into a draw at this stage. Australia piled the agony on England’s bowlers on the fourth day courtesy a 200-run sixth-wicket stand between North and Brad Haddin (121) in just 44 overs. Australia declared at 674/6, and England slumped to 20/2 with a day to go and still 219 in arrears.

  Defeat appeared inevitable for England on the final day as they crashed to 70/5 and then to 159/7, even as Paul Collingwood battled on with determination. He put on 62 with Greame Swann for the eighth wicket, but when he was finally dislodged for a 245-ball 74 in five hours and 45 minutes, England were 233/9 and still a little over 11 overs were left.

  Australia needed just one good ball to wrap things up. However number eleven Monty Panesar, boasting an average of a shade over five, joined number ten James Anderson in the middle and it wasn’t over till it was over. The two went on to do the unthinkable as they added an unbeaten 19 in 11.3 overs to script a memorable draw for England.

  The two tail-enders showed immense grit in defying the pumped-up Australian bowlers for 40 minutes. England were just 13 runs ahead when the match ended in a thrilling finish. This result dented Australia’s confidence, as England scored a 2-1 series victory to wrest back the Ashes.

REVIEW – 2012 year-end recap (Thanks for the memories)

  2012 was the year of many retirements from Test cricket. As many as five illustrious cricketers called time on their Test careers, leaving millions of fans all over the world with fond memories of their many exploits at the highest level. Listed below are the five men who decided to quit the great game this year. Let us doff our hat to them for the wonderful memories!

Rahul Dravid (India, 1996-2012)

Tests – 164  Runs – 13288  Average – 52.31  Best – 270  100’s – 36  Catches – 210

91782156_Dravid_202118b    Dravid the ‘Wall’ scored 146 in the fourth Test at the Oval in 2011 – one of his best innings, which turned out to be his last hundred (source – thetimes.co.uk)

  In my opinion, the humble Dravid was the greatest of all modern-day batsmen. He was indeed the quintessential gentleman of the gentlemen’s game – it is very difficult to find such players nowadays. Not only was he India’s saviour on innumerable occasions, but he also was a wonderful human being – traits of which were often displayed on the cricket field. Christened ‘the Wall’ for his solid, reliable and flawlessly correct technique, Dravid retired from the game after a poor tour of Australia, where he was bowled six times in four Tests. The self-reflecting person that he is, Dravid decided that his time had come up and quit the game in March. But he was in the best of form as recently as August 2011, when he stood tall amid the ruins during India’s disastrous tour of England, finishing with three centuries even as his team got whitewashed.

  He is the third highest run-getter in Test history, and his amazing confidence levels also helped him pouch 210 catches as a fielder – a world record. Ever the team man, Dravid has opened the batting, captained the team and kept wickets for India, and almost always delivered the goods, justifying his ‘Mr.Dependable’ tag. He has scored plenty of great knocks in Tests, but arguably his 233 and 72* in the 2003-04 Adelaide Test tops the list. Committed and determined on the field, modest and dignified off it – there was and will be only one Rahul Dravid.

Ricky Ponting (Australia, 1995-2012)

Tests – 168  Runs – 13378  Average – 51.85  Best – 257  100’s – 41  Catches – 196

Ricky-Ponting-006     Ricky Ponting in his beloved Australian Baggy Green cap (source – guardian.co.uk)

  The tough-as-nails Ponting quit the game after playing 168 Tests – an Australian joint-record with Steve Waugh – indeed he chose not to play his final Test at his home ground in Hobart as he did not want to surpass Waugh’s match tally. The second highest run-getter of all time, Ponting was the captain of the Australian team from 2004 to 2010, with at least his first five years in charge being one of Australian cricket’s most golden periods, having inherited from Waugh (the previous captain) a team full of match-winners. He might not have been the best of captains (even though he has captained his side to victory 48 times, more than anyone else in history), but he was certainly one of the greatest batsmen Test cricket has seen. His trademark pull shot will probably be the most enduring image of his illustrious career.

  For all his great batting feats, the record that ‘Punter’ will be most proud of is the record of having played in most Test wins – 108 (he is the only player to take part in 100 Test wins). He was a man for the big occasion  as proved by the two centuries he made in his hundredth Test, and also by the stunning 140* he scored in the 2003 World Cup final. Ponting’s last series in November against South Africa was really a struggle – he could manage just 32 runs in 5 innings, more than enough for him to hang up his boots and wear his much loved Baggy Green cap for the last time.

Mark Boucher (South Africa, 1997-2012)

Tests – 147  Catches –  532  Stumpings – 23  Runs – 5515  Average – 30.30

  It was an unfortunate end to the career of the most prolific Test wicketkeeper of all time. Boucher was gearing up for the much-awaited Test series in England by playing a warm-up match, during which he was injured in the eye by a flying bail. The freak injury was serious enough for him to retire from the game, having served South Africa as their first-choice wicketkeeper for almost 15 years. One of the most under-rated players of modern times, Boucher effected a world record 555 Test dismissals (532 catches and 23 stumpings), 139 more than the next-best.

  He was also a very handy batsman in all forms of the game – he was the finisher when South Africa had chased down 434 in the astonishing Johannesburg ODI against Australia in 2005-06. His Test best of 125 came against Zimbabwe in 1999-00, which was at that time the highest score by a nightwatchman, while his ODI best of 147, also against Zimbabwe in 2006-07, came in a mere 68 balls. Boucher was an immensely competitive and tough cricketer and surely deserved a better way to retire from the game.

Mark Boucher     The ever-dependable Mark Boucher was forced to retire due to a freak injury in a warm-up game (source – guardian.co.uk)

VVS Laxman (India, 1996-2012)

Tests – 134  Runs – 8781  Average – 45.97  Best – 281  100’s – 17  Catches – 135

  This dependable, wristy batsman will be most remembered for the best innings ever played by an Indian in Test cricket – the epic 281 in the even more epic Kolkata Test of 2000-01 against the champion Australian team. This one-of-a-kind innings helped India win the Test after following on (only the third such instance in Tests), and the win gave them the belief to win the series as well, not to mention the confidence that it gave to the Indian team in coming years, especially while playing overseas. Laxman’s numbers might not be awe-inspiring, but his impact on the team’s fortunes was unquestionable.

  Many a times we have seen Laxman left on his own to battle it out, with just the tail remaining, most wonderfully shown when he battled injury to score 73* with the help of a runner to give India a 1-wicket win at Mohali in 2010-11.  He reserved his best for the Australians, who at times found it highly difficult to dislodge him. When on song, Laxman was a treat to watch – with his supple wrists and magical stroke-play. But in the overseas tours of England and Australia last season, he was a shadow of his former self, and a few months later in August this year, he retired from the game, resisting the temptation to play his last Test at Hyderabad, his home ground.

Andrew Strauss (England, 2004-2012)

Tests – 100  Runs – 7037  Average – 40.91  Best – 177  100’s – 21  Catches – 121

  Middlesex man Strauss played his last Test, also his 100th at his home ground Lord’s – the same venue where he had made a century on debut in 2004. Strauss was captain of England from 2008-09 till his last Test, proving to be a highly successful and respected leader. He led his team to two historic Ashes victories – at home in 2009, and away in 2010-11, the latter being England’s first win in Australia in 24 years. With his solid technique, he gave many sound starts to England but was found wanting at the start of this year both as batsman and captain. England, who had become champions last year under him, surrendered the mace to South Africa at home, compelling him to quit the game for good. His highest Test was a gritty eight-hour 177 against New Zealand at Napier in 2007-08, an innings that salvaged his career, and more importantly sealed a series win for his team.

VIEWPOINT – The real ‘World Championship’

   The battle for Test supremacy is underway. At Perth, Australia and South Africa are engrossed in a no-holds barred clash which will decide who is the Test champion. South Africa only need a draw while Australia will have to win the Test to recapture the mace which they last held in 2009.

  Test cricket is the mother of all things cricket, and indeed this match thus becomes a match of greater stature than say, the World Cup final. But since there is no official Test championship, this match at Perth is as close as it can get to a World Test Championship final. The Test rankings at the moment are the most feasible system to determine the champion team in the real format of the game. However the flaw here is that there is a possibility of two, even three different champions in one year. Just this year in August, it was England taking on South Africa for the championship mace, and now its Australia who are looking to wrest it back.

  But let us just assume that this very match at Perth is the actual final of an official World Test Championship – two tough-as-nails teams going one-on-one to decide the champion, on one of the world’s bounciest tracks. Surely, could not get better than this. Add to that, it is the last Test of one of the finest players of the modern age – Ricky Ponting. It has to be one of the two big matches of the year – other being England v South Africa at Lord’s earlier this year when the mace was at stake.

Australia-vs-South-Africa-1st-Test-Match-Preview-199898        It is the mace that matters – another duel for Test supremacy begins in Perth (source – bbc.co.uk)

  Yet, this match is not given importance as compared to the World Cup final – thus stressing the need for an official World Test Championship in the calendar. The first edition of the championship was scheduled to be held in 2013- with the top four teams playing on a knock-out basis before the final is played – but it was frustratingly postponed to 2017 to accommodate the last edition of the Champions Trophy. But will this proposed tournament be a true indicator of Test supremacy over a period of 4 years?

   There is a feeling that important series like the Ashes, The Basil D’Oliveira Trophy or the Border-Gavaskar Trophy might get sidelined if the Test Championship gains prominence. Will for instance, Australia, on winning the Championship in 2017, regard themselves as true champions if they lose the Ashes that year? Will the ‘top-four’ format mean that the likes of New Zealand and West Indies won’t ever get a shot at the Championship? These are pertinent points that come into play if the World Test Championship is to begin. Whether the ICC goes ahead with this plan or creates a more feasible system remains to be seen.

Graeme+Smith+England+v+South+Africa+3rd+Investec+gOV0qbNR9lrl          Will he, won’t he? – South Africa’s prized possession is at stake at the WACA (source – zimbio.com)

   Official championship or not, the mace is indeed at stake at Perth. And no doubt, this mace is the most sought-after piece of silverware for any team who regards itself as fit for international cricket. With no proper championship system in place, this ranking method, with all its musical-chairs over the last few years, is not that bad. Thus for me, the Perth Test is the real World Championship final – whether it comes twice a year or once in three years does not matter to me. That is for the ICC to sort out, understandably.

  For now, the big question that remains is – ‘South Africa still or Australia again?’ We will find out in the coming four days – or even less – given the flurry of wickets on Day 1.

IN FOCUS – South Africa in Australia Test series 2012-13 preview

  Come November 9, Australia will start its international season with a much-anticipated Test series against world champions South Africa. The Proteas were crowned champions when they beat England 2-0 in England in August. 

The Matches

  Fortunately, there are at least three Tests in this series, unlike last season’s series between the two countries in South Africa, where there were just two Tests. The venues for the three Tests are the Gabba in Brisbane (November 9-13), the Adelaide Oval (November 22-26) and the WACA Ground in Perth (November 30-December 4). South Africa will be playing at the Gabba for the first time since 1963-64, while of Perth they will have great memories of chasing 414 there during their series win in 2008-09.

Head To Head and Recent Record

   Australia and South Africa have played each other in 85 Tests, with Australia clearly dominating – 48 wins to South Africa’s 19, plus 18 draws. In Australia, the figures read 20 wins in 35 Tests for Australia, with South Africa winning 7 and 8 ending in draws. In recent times, South Africa have shown that they can be better than Australia at times – winning 2-1 the last time they visited Australia in 2008-09. However in the same season, Australia inflicted a return 2-1 defeat when they travelled to South Africa. Last season’s two-Test rubber in South Africa was drawn 1-1. In the last ten Tests between the two teams, Australia have won 6 to South Africa’s 4. The last 13 Tests between the teams have all fetched results.

Form Book and Ranking

  South Africa confirmed themselves as the world’s best team when they toppled England off their perch in their own backyard, winning the 3-match series 2-0 and becoming the No.1 Test nation. Before that, Greame Smith’s side won in New Zealand and at home against Sri Lanka. The last series that South Africa lost was against Australia at home in 2008-09. Since then they have won 4 and drawn 5 series. The last time they lost away was back in 2006 when they lost 0-2 in Sri Lanka.

  Australia were outplayed by England 1-3 in the home Ashes in 2010-11, dropping to No.5 in the rankings at one stage. But since then they have been steadily on the rise under Michael Clarke. In the past five series, Australia have won 3 and drawn 2, including overseas wins in Sri Lanka and West Indies, and a 4-0 sweep of India at home last summer. They are currently ranked 3rd, just one rating point behind 2nd placed England.

          A successful series for Ricky Ponting might just prolong his illustrious career (source – heraldsun.com.au)

Players To Watch Out For

  This Test series is being touted as the battle of the pace bowlers. And at least two of the venues – Brisbane and Perth – will offer generous purchase for the seam bowlers. South Africa possess the best pace attack in the world at the moment- Dale Steyn (who is the world’s best fast bowler), Vernon Philander (who has had a sensational debut season last year) and Morne Morkel. Watch out for the Steyn-Philander pairing in particular – Steyn having had a memorable series last time in Australia, especially his 76 and 10 wickets at the MCG. Ricky Ponting’s Test career is on its last legs, but following an excellent show against India last summer, he will be raring to prove that he still has a lot to offer to his team. His contemporary Jacques Kallis continues to be South Africa’s mainstay, and will be hoping to improve his average against Australia.

     Besides Steyn and Co, Australia will need to tackle the batting duo of Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla as well (source – ibn.live.in.com)

Prediction

  Very tough to guess the scoreline here, but South Africa surely hold a small edge, their below-par bowling in the ongoing tour match notwithstanding. After much deliberation, I have zeroed down upon a likely 2-1 victory for South Africa, although it is by no means an absolutely confident prediction.