Graeme Smith’s Proteas have landed in Australia facing history. As the only South African captain to win in the land of the kangaroo, Smith and coach Gary Kirsten will be hoping to further entrench themselves in the country by winning their second away series in a row against the Baggy Greens.
Being the first side since the West Indies in 1993 to win in Australia, South Africa will look to repeat the feat of the islanders, who also beat Australia on their previous visit in 1988.
They come to Australia with a more rounded pace attack, following the addition of Vernon Philander, than they had in 2009, and with Imran Tahir in the spin armoury, a better balanced attack as well. In Hashim Amla, South Africa come to Australia with a batsman who has passed 300 in Tests, and in the likes of Smith and modern great Jacques Kallis, two of the hardiest competitors to don a white shirt for the Proteas.
The only area which needs to be addressed is that of wicket keeper. While AB de Villiers wore the gloves in England following Mark Boucher’s tragic career ending injury, allowing for JP Duminy to bat at 7, the Titans batsman’s form suffered, not playing as significant a role as would have been expected of him in the Proteas’ 2-0 series victory.
With Thami Tsolekile part of the touring party, serious consideration needs to be given to picking the Lions keeper to ensure De Villiers fully delivers with the bat. The numbers speak for themselves: De Villiers’ overall Test average is 48.85. As a batsman alone, he averages 50.42, with a top score of 278 not out. As a wicket keeper that figure drops considerably to 30.33, with a highest score of 52 not out.
While there may be some unknowns about how Tsolekile might fair with the bat in Australia, surely it’s overall a better strategy to hand over the gloves to the Lions man, since it’s what he does day in, day out, and let De Viliers do what he does best, score runs. Duminy would just have to be the man that misses out.
Apart from that the Proteas have everything they need to conquer Australia for a second time in a row. It’s going to be a close series, and with Australia moving Shane Watson down the order (which should’ve happened a long time ago), their batting won’t be as unsettled as last time, especially with Michael Clarke proving to be a wily adversary for Smith judging from the two sides’ 1-1 draw in SA. Will South Africa win? Yes, 2-1. Confidence is a dangerous thing when dealing with the Proteas but at Test level we aren’t number one for nothing.