Friday, December 12, 2008

South Africa vs Western Australian XI

I made my way down to the WACA this morning to watch the South Africans' warm up game against what was essentially the Western Australian 2nd XI. Being a 2-day game, it was really never going to be more than a glorified net session, meaning that there's little one can really glean from the performances or anything else, but there was still enough of interest for the couple of hundred souls who were there. Of course, that said, most of them spent the day reading books or getting on with their knitting, but I've moaned about that before so I won't start now.

The pitch itself was a disappointment. Pitch number 8 was used for this game, apparently relaid 6 months ago. The relaid pitches at the WACA have been a throwback to its heyday, when pace and bounce ruled the roost. Not this one. Lonwabo Tsotsobe did get struck, but that owed more to his relative ineptitude with the bat than anything in the surface. The rest of the day, the ball carried through no more than waist high, and the spectators were in about as much danger as the batsmen.

The Test match however, is to be played on pitch number 6, and that could make for some fun stuff. That's the pitch on which Shaun Tait had the Kiwis hopping about last year, and if it plays anything like that, then watching Morkel, Steyn, Lee and Johnson ought to be an absolute blast.

Pitch issues aside, the South Africans may also be a little concerned about their batting. Bluntly put, they don't seem to have an awful lot of it, despite coming here with, on paper, their strongest line up in years. De Villiers put together a composed century, but McKenzie's half century wasn't altogether convincing, and with Smith, Prince and Boucher failing, and Kallis once again being called selfish by the press in an attempt to create some interest in the proceedings, only Amla looks in possession of both class and form. However, he too looked less than complete when playing the short ball, and a quick bouncy pitch may be quite a test. Throw in his having not yet been dismissed on tour, and his odds of failing in the Test seem pretty good.

Also of interest today were the field placings employed by the WA side in the initial overs. Smith, a belligerent lefty, and McKenzie, a relatively stoic right-hander, were facing Davis, bowling left arm inswing (to the righty), and Porter, a right-armer shaping the ball away. That covers about every permutation in the book. And yet Simmons, the WA captain, employed an absolutely identical field for both bowlers to both batsmen. Three slips, a gully, a square point (presumably because of the lack of pace in the pitch and the bowlers), a mid-off, a mid-on, a square leg and a deep fine leg. Either he expected his bowlers to bowl to that field, which they most certainly did not do, or what we all get taught about adjusting our fields for the bowler and batsman is not all that it's cracked out to be.

Field placing aside, Ricky Ponting could learn a thing or two from Simmons. He managed 32 overs in the first hour, despite using 7 medium pacers and just two overs of spin in that time, and he followed it up with 33 overs in the second hour. In fact, stumps were drawn after 90 overs, a full ten minutes ahead of schedule. Has that ever happened before?

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