November 28, 2012
If anyone had doubted the supremacy of test cricket over other forms of the game, the four top sides in world cricket over the past two weeks have been locking horns in intriguing combat. Amid high drama, it is all to play on different continents for as the two series (Australia v South Africa and India v England) head for deciding conclusions. Fans all over the country are glued to their TV sets.
The leading test playing country, South Africa, are defending their crown in Australia. Should they lose the final match in Perth, starting on 30 November, Australia will supersede them as the number one team. Both matches so far, in Brisbane and Adelaide, have been batsmen dominated draws and the home side will be hoping that their pace men can exploit the extra bounce at the WACA which so unsettled England in 2010.
South Africa, still reeling from Michael Clarke’s assault in Adelaide, are grateful to skipper Graeme Smith and debutant Faf du Plessis for leading a famous rearguard action that prevented Australia from capturing the necessary 20 wickets in the match. They will, however, need to consider changes to their bowling attack. Jacques Kallis is unlikely to be fit to bowl and leg spinner Imran Tahir will surely be replaced after conceding a world record 250 runs in Adelaide without taking a wicket.
Australia are bursting with confidence, but will be ruing the absence of James Pattinson, who like a number of other Aussie bowlers this season, has succumbed to injury. Batsmen are in form, but they are considering a recall for Mitchell Johnson, their WACA hero of two years ago, and all-rounder Shane Watson.
India have been stunned by their second test defeat, which allowed England to level the series at 1 – 1. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann out bowled the home attack, enabling England to successfully counter India’s master plan of trial by spin. The defeated squad has already been given a vote of confidence for the next test at Kolkata; it would seem as if beleaguered batsmen such as Sachin Tendulkar have been given a stay of execution.
England, buoyed by victory in Mumbai, have the least worries over selection, but should be concerned that only two senior batsmen (Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen) have so far fired in the series and that Stuart Broad is woefully below par. Expect recalls for the new dad Ian Bell and fit again Steven Finn.
And as for us fans of test cricket? More sleep deprivation and plenty of coffee!
The Scoop 28/11/12