Summer has officially arrived

Someone tell the weather, would ya…

The first Test against South Africa has arrived and there is no better launchpad for the series than the fast, viridescent Gabba surrounds. Despite traditionally being a venue which firmly plants opposition teams on their heels, this combative touring side will be relishing the opportunity to prove the doubters – of which there are many – wrong.

In their way will be a batting line-up chockfull of the type of confidence only time in the middle can provide. Marnus Labuschagne will be looking to continue his avaricious approach to run scoring on his home deck, where he averages an imposing 94.6, from six Test innings. Coming into his first series against the nation of his birth, Marnus is not so much in an imperious purple patch of form, but rather, currently cloaking himself in an entire Byzantian quilt of class.

The out-of-sorts David Warner will be hoping to join the illustrious company of Michael Clarke and Greg Chappell, as he searches for his fifth Test century at ‘Fortress Gabbatoir’. Meanwhile, the likes of Alex Carey and the Aussie tail will simply be looking forward to walking out to the middle, after their services with the willow were regularly not required in the recent shellacking of lowly West Indies.

Looking to spoil the party will be an electric pace attack led by the ever-consistent Kagiso Rabada, with 257 test scalps already to his name. The South African quartet of Rabada, Ngidi, Nortje & tall timber Jansen mustn’t fall prey to the juicy Brisbane conditions, like so many before them. If they are to rattle the Aussie top order, they must curtail their natural aggression, risk being driven and keep it full. After all, when it comes to intimidatory bowling, there’s nothing more aggressive – or impressive – than taking twenty wickets.

Prepare yourselves for the usual hyperbolic scuttlebutt and exaggerated hubbub surrounding a potential ‘green mamba’ out in the middle. Then take a breath and realise these things rarely come to pass.

Dean Elgar will need to lead his charges with the only currency of true value in this caper – runs. If South Africa are to be any shake of victory, they will certainly need to put in batting performances far greater than the sum of their parts. Touring tails often tick the box of “seven out, all out” and if South Africa are to remain in the war, they must buck that trend and consistently contribute in the lower order battles.

Australia will be without metronomic talisman Josh Hazelwood for the opener, a significant loss to any side, no doubt. However, the deep bowling stocks of this nation are bursting at the seams and in Scott Boland, with 21 wickets at a miserly 10.33, they have a ready replacement in the barrel; Michael Neser the unlikely home-grown contender to miss out.

The Gabba pitch provides pace, bounce and seam; not to mention arguably the best drainage in world cricket. Expect a result this Test, even with the usual threat of Brisbane’s humidity-relieving electrical storms.

A point of interest will be crowd attendances this summer, with figures waning in recent years for the purest form of the game. Regardless of quantity, the locals will be making their presence felt. If South Africa thought sandpaper was abrasive, wait until they hear the not-so-subtle advice Aussie fans will dole out over the boundary ropes, come the third session each day. A parochial Queensland crowd, aided by some of Bundaberg’s finest saccharine-laced libations, are sure to be at their ear-bleeding best. … or worst, depending on your school of thought.

Finally, with all the rhetoric surrounding the all-out pace attacks (of which, this scribe is also guilty), do not sleep on Nathan Lyon’s ability to impact not only this Test, but the series as a whole. With 450 Test wickets under his belt, rest assured the Proteas will be awake to his threat.

As always, come Saturday morning, the skippers will look at the 22 yards of tinged green and consider bowling first . . . then, whoever wins the toss, will rightly elect to bat. From there, the summer truly begins.

First Test Predictions:

Australia Win

Most Wickets: Pat Cummins & Anrich Nortje

Most Runs: Marnus Labuschagne & Dean Elgar

Punt on the First Test



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