Welcome to the Summer of Pace

Australia v South Africa. One v Two. It’s Finally Here!

Well before the introduction of any yellow, artificial smoothing agents, this has long been a Test cricket rivalry known for its abrasive nature. Now, with six years of anticipation in the back pocket, local cricket fans are finally able to welcome the Proteas back onto Aussie soil for what is primed to be the Summer of Pace.

After nearly a century (98 years) of failed attempts, South Africa broke their duck with a historic 2005/06 triumph and have remained unbeaten on these shores ever since.

They arrive with their bowling ranks armed to the teeth, with sights set on launching into Australia with an old-fashioned barrage of quicks. They harbour a pace brigade consisting of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortje and Gerald Coetzee – all of whom are capable of steaming in and pushing the speedo above 145 clicks. They will be relishing this opportunity to ply their trade on bouncy Australian decks, starting this Saturday at the ‘Gabba. Provided La Nina doesn’t continue to come off it’s (seemingly endless) long run this summer, these attacks should produce 40 wickets more often than not.

Expect results.

With the best bowling attacks on the planet arguably cancelling each other out, the key to victory this summer will likely be the performances of those with bat in hand. This is where the Australians hold a significant edge, with not one South African batter averaging in the 40’s. Counter that with the imperious form of Marnus Labuschagne & Travis Head, coupled with the ever-consistent Usman Khawaja at the top and a rejuvenated Steve Smith looking for redemptive runs; there could be some long sessions in the field for the Proteas.

However, write them off at your peril.

The away side will be in a typically belligerent and resilient mood and often play their best when severe underdogs – after all, it’s hard to choke when you’re not supposed to win. Whilst not directly involved, South African players will no doubt be buoyed by memories of backs-to-the-wall conquests in this land. Memories of Faf Du Plessis’ stonewalling innings in Adelaide, JP Duminy & Steyn heroics in the Boxing Day Test of 2008, and the anomalous, almost surreal disaster they inflicted on the home side when they skittled the Aussies for a paltry 85 in Hobart. Even when a Mitchell Johnson thunderbolt defeated a gallant Graeme Smith’s broken hand at the SCG in 2009, the victory felt somewhat pyrrhic for those wearing baggy greens.

Australia will stick to their well-worn mantra that if you chop off the head, the body will die. The ‘head’, in this case, being skipper and gritty opening bat, Dean Elgar. The captain is only one of two in the Protea line-up (along with an out of sorts vice-captain Temba Bavuma) to have played Test cricket in Australia and his nuggety shoulders will need to bear much weight if the South African winning streak is to continue.

An out of form and heavily scrutinised David Warner will bring up his 100thTest match on Boxing Day and is one of the few batters in world cricket who is only ever a couple of early, piercing cover drives away, from regaining top form. Oft maligned spearhead Mitchell Starc currently sits on 296 Test scalps and has every chance to surpass greats Brett Lee (310) and Mitchell Johnson (313), making him the fifth most successful Test bowler in Australian history. Not too shabby for a bloke with bad body language.

Stumps will fly, batsmen will be left battered and bruised and tempers will no doubt flare as references of past indiscretions indubitably resurface.

One thing is certain: like any other duel between these proud, competitive cricketing nations, this Test series will be nothing short of abrasive.

Bring on the Summer of Pace.

Test Dates

First Test, ‘Gabba Dec 17 – 21

Second Test MCG Dec 26 – 30

Third Test SCG Jan 4 – 8

Last 30 Tests between the nations:

Australia 15

South Africa 12

Draw 3

Punt on the 1st Test here



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