If you explore fully Australia’s Test history the pace analogy is even more stark. In 1932-33 England dominated with Harold Larwood being the genuine pace bowling threat
South African players celebrate the wicket of England’s Ollie Pope on Day Three of the first Test at Lord’s yesterday. Pic/AFP
In the last 15 years only two teams—South Africa and India—have beaten Australia at home in a Test series. In each case, Dale Steyn in South Africa’s and Jasprit Bumrah in India’s, a fast bowler played a leading role.
That’s not to say a paceman did it all on his own—they had plenty of help—but the fast bowler set a leading example. The most remarkable of those victories was India’s in 2020-21 as they capitulated in being bundled out for 36, had their captain then fly home, lost Bumrah to injury in the final Test and yet still narrowly beat Australia at fortress Gabba. That was an incredible feat led by India’s then junior fast bowler Mohammed Siraj.
If you explore fully Australia’s Test history the pace analogy is even more stark. In 1932-33 England dominated with Harold Larwood being the genuine pace bowling threat. England, whose wiser captains Len Hutton and Ray Illingworth plumped for pace, again dominated Australia with Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson in 1954-55 and John Snow in 1970-71 being the successful pace bowlers. Then it was the turn of the West Indies for a period of 15 years where they monstered Australia at home, winning four times with a successful quartet of very fine fast bowlers. There is no doubt that South Africa have the pace bowling quality to succeed in Australia. The big question is whether the fragile batting can produce enough runs to give their bowlers a shot at victory.
Throughout the previous winning sequences in Australia there was always at least one class batsman in the opposition who helped the pace men make victory possible.
This is where South Africa fall down as they only have skipper Dean Elgar as a proven performer in Australia. Elgar is a tough competitor but not a class batsman.
South Africa will require useful contributions from their other batsmen if they are going to produce match winning totals. Adding to South Africa’s batting troubles is the Australian attack. The strength of Australia and a big reason for their recent success at home has been a very strong bowling squad. Even slightly depleted with the loss of Josh Hazlewood from at least the Gabba contest, Australia are still strong in bowling.
Much of South Africa’s success or otherwise will come down to the leadership of Elgar. If he captains the bowlers wisely so they trouble Australia’s batsmen it’ll become a willing contest. If, however, the Australian batsmen are able to counter their pace opponents then the home side will prevail comfortably.
While genuine pace bowling provides a renowned path in Australia it doesn’t always guarantee victory. To win now South Africa need to bowl and field superbly as well as produce some decent totals.
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