Alas, South Africa found a way to crack Australia’s top six and take firm control over the series.
Some may have suspected it and others may have been blindsided by Australia’s scores streaking above 500 but Australia’s batting has been fragile since the Hayden and Langer era.
Why has Australia been able to grind the South Africans out of the first and second test with aggressive batting?
Well Michael Clarke’s golden form and to a lesser extent Mike Hussey’s ability to understand what the situation requires, have protected Australia’s unpredictable top order. Dave Warner’s brashness and Ed Cowan’s lack of class hardly poses an overwhelming challenge to first-rate test bowling attacks. Warner is an entertainer but is he a long-term test cricketer? His fly swat shot today was simply unacceptable and reeked of amateurism. His partner, Cowan, is a gritty and no-nonsense opener yet simply lacks the array of shots and class to become a reliable run scorer for Australia.
The return of Shane Watson will help bolster Australia’s top order but even he sometimes struggles to convert half centuries into the match winning tons. The soon to be retired Ricky Ponting will leave a hole from a leadership standpoint but of all Australia’s batsmen, Clarke has been carrying him the most. Ponting’s success last summer is even questionable. The Indians clearly had no interest of digging in for a competitive and spirited summer and hence, Australia’s series win against India is also flattering.
Ponting should have retired three years ago- not for the sake of the Australian Test Team but for the fans and his own reputation. There is nothing worse than watching a champion as a shell of his former self. Like Wayne Carey extending his career in Adelaide, Ponting’s retirement has come to late and it has not been gratifying watching Ponting losing his footing at the crease.
What Australia’s top six looks like in 12 months time is as good as anyone’s guess. While the injury curse continues to strike Australia’s bowlers, the future is obvious with young guns Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Matthew Stark still yet to enjoy their best years of cricket.
On the other hand, Australia’s batting is a mess and Clarke’s form and leadership will be the difference between Australia posting competitive totals or plummeting to 6 for 46.