Sledging has become part and parcel of test cricket. Whenever the top test nations compete, there are always a few words exchanged. It adds to the contest and stirs up not only the players but the crowd also feeds off the animosity. They contribute to the discussion whenever an opposing player is within earshot. Most of the time it is good-natured and considered quite clever. It can turn hostile depending on what boundary a player is fielding on around the world.
Tempers boiled over during the first test at Sahara Computers-sponsored Kingsmead Stadium. There is normally a fair bit of back and forth between South Africa and Australia. What took place in Durban went beyond anything seen between the Proteas and Baggy Greens. Normally the verbals stay on the pitch. In this instance, they carried on even after the players had left the field.
Warner and de Kock
David Warner had to be restrained by his teammates as he tried to confront the young Quinton de Kock. The incident took place as the players made their way to tea on the fourth day. Walking up the Kingsmead stairs to the dressing room, Warner released a verbal tirade. The Australian opener was eventually pulled away and the incident fizzled out.
It’s clear that a mark was overstepped but by who no one knows. The lines with the Australians have been blurred in the past. Since the stairwell standoff, both players have been charged. The ICC has charged Warner with a level 2 offence and de Kock a level 1.
What this has done is set the stage for what will be one of the best ever test series between these two. The global interest has peaked. These two great nations are going to give it everything they have over the next three tests.
Who Has The Advantage?
After the Australians won the first test at Kingsmead, they are in the ascendency. The Baggy Greens won by 118 runs and dominated from start to finish. Their bowling attack delivered with ruthless efficiency. Messers Starc and Lyon were hugely impressive and accounted for 12 of the 20 wickets. If the Proteas are to get back on level terms, they will need to deal with those two a lot better.
The South Africans also have a formidable bowling attack. Spinner Keshav Maharaj picked up a five-fer in the first innings in Durban. Maharaj could have a huge influence on the outcome of the series. The last time the Aussies battled with spin trouble was in the subcontinent last year. There was a lot of talk about how they needed to pass the spin test in Bangladesh. The Australians only ended up drawing that series. That was purely down to failing to negotiate the Bangladesh spinners.
The evidence in Durban suggests the Australians will battle against Maharaj. As of the 7th of March, Betway has Australia at 2/5 to win the series. It is without a doubt that they are the favourites but there are a few chinks in their armour.
History is on Australia’s Side
Australia hasn’t lost in the rainbow nation since readmission back in 1991. The reasons why Australia had the edge going into the Ashes as favourites apply against South Africa. History is on the side of the Australians. They are also very good at exploiting inexperienced sides.
The last time South Africa beat Australia at home in a series was in 1969. For 21 of those 50 years, South Africa was in sporting isolation. Unfortunately for the Proteas, it doesn’t hide the fact that, in the last 29 years, they are winless at home.
The stars of Australia’s new era are picking up where their retired counterparts left off. Already one down in the series, it looks like history might be repeating itself. The good news for the Proteas is that records are there to be broken. The teams head to Port Elizabeth next. The last time these two clashed at St Georges Park in 2014, South Africa won by 231 runs.
The Stakes Have Been Raised
After the heated clash between members of the two sides, there is an added incentive to win. Feathers have been ruffled and both camps are pointing fingers. The only way to settle the score is with bat and ball. Sledging may be a customary part of the game nowadays but it doesn’t win test matches.