This South African bowling attack has the firepower to rattle the local batters but I can’t see Aussies losing a Test because of the advantages they have when it comes to scoring runs.
South Africa have an imposing bowling line-up that has the ability to get 20 wickets in all three matches but that’s mixed in with can they score enough runs against the Australian attack?
And the answer to that is I don’t think so. There’s no genuine star batter in this team. Their captain, Dean Elgar, has got a vast career and hundreds against Australia. He’s just a classical opener, a nudger of the ball.
Temba Bavuma we’ve seen out here before but after 87 Test innings and only one hundred, he doesn’t pose as much of a threat as some of the star batters they’ve brought out here in the past like Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.
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He’s got a tight technique, hasn’t got a bad cover drive but like Elgar, he’s not going to tear an opposition bowling attack apart.
Rabada’s wicket-taking ability is their main hope, he’s arguably the best fast bowler in the world. To have 257 wickets in 55 matches at 22.46 is nuts. It underlines his class and he’s taken over from Dale Steyn as their pace spearhead in the past few years.
He’s also got Steyn’s elite ability to break through regularly. His strike rate is one of the best of all time at 40.2 and I really rate that. The aim of the game is to get 20 wickets every Test so to have someone who not only strikes regularly but doesn’t go for many runs either is a real luxury for the Proteas.
Rabada’s got everything – aggression, he attacks the batter, his line and lengthy deliveries challenge both the outside and inside edges, he can bowl genuine outswingers. I put him up there with Pat Cummins on the top shelf of the best quicks on the planet.
He’s already fast but his effort ball is lightning quick. His yorker is a cracker, he got Usman Khawaja last time they were out here in Perth with a beauty, and his bouncer puts batters on the back foot when he needs to.
And he’s a fine reverse-swing bowler as well and that could come into play in the third Test at the SCG. It’s a very dry centre wicket square there at the moment, spinners have been getting wickets in Shield cricket so that could suit Rabada to a tee.
Lungi Ngidi will share the new ball with him and he’s not quite as quick as Rabada but he has a better release that can produce a late outswinger. He’ll relish playing in the Australian conditions with a bit of pace and bounce in the wickets as well.
He’s only 15 Tests into his career but has 49 wickets at 21.61 and also doesn’t muck about, striking at once every 43.4 deliveries, which is world class.
Anrich Nortje is an interesting one. He’s been up into the mid 150km/h ballpark so he’s express pace. His action is a bit more front-on and he uses his height well and brings a lot of energy to the attack, often as the change bowler.
He normally bangs the ball in just short of a length to hit splice high on the bat but he can also go “nose and toes” to push batters back before slipping in the yorker.
Again, the stats indicate how much of an impact he’s made in a short space of time – 57 wickets from 15 Tests at 27.52 with a strike rate of 43.8.
Rabada’s taken over from Steyn as the pace spearhead but Nortje’s copied his chainsaw celebration so we’ll be seeing that a bit over the next few weeks.
And if you think we’ve got some tall bowlers in the Australian attack, wait until you see Marco Jansen – he’s 2.06m, a left-armer and although he’s not as fast as the other three, he’s another consistent swinger of the ball.
For the Aussie right-handers, he’ll be a constant threat to trap them in front and for the lefties he will be taking the ball away from them towards the slips.
Another relative newcomer to Test cricket at 22, he’s bagged 37 wickets from just seven Tests and his average and strike rate are better than the others – 18.59 and 34. They’re some seriously good numbers.
As an all-rounder it gives them a nice balanced attack by playing him as well but if you have him batting at No.7, that means their keeper, Kyle Verreynne, goes up to six and it could leave them a little skinny when their batting depth isn’t great as it is.
Keshav Maharaj is a really experienced spin bowler who will be able to dot players up and they haven’t had many quality tweakers over the years but his record of 154 victims at 30 in 45 Tests is excellent.
He might have a chance to really shine in that Sydney Test.
They’ve talked it up already how they want to make the Aussie batters uncomfortable by bowling short and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.
Usman Khawaja is very strong on the pull and hook, David Warner prefers to cut through the off side, Marnus Labuschagne was almost compulsively playing shots when the West Indies bounced him so is he going to duck under a few with two fielders out in the deep?
Steve Smith, with the changes to his stance, feels like he’s in a better position to take on the short ball but he’s still very selective about when he does. Travis Head can tend to keep his hands up when he’s playing the short ball so he could be a chance to glove one if he’s not careful and for Cameron Green, his height should be an advantage to combat that sort of bowling pretty well.
Warner’s been given another show of faith by the selectors and I agree that you’ve just got to back him and we’ll worry about his spot later on if he still doesn’t get a big score.
South Africa have had some good attacks over the years – guys like Allan Donald, Steyn, Morne Morkel and Shaun Pollock – so this attack could be as imposing as some of those sides but I can’t remember them having a left-armer to throw into the mix like Jansen and a spinner as skilled as Maharaj.
This group would be up there with the best attacks they’ve brought out here.
The series will come down to which batting unit can weather the early storm when the ball is new to put up a decent total and if you compare the records of the two teams then Australia should come out well on top in that regard.
I think it’s going to be an engrossing Test series, I’d say the MCG in the second Test would be South Africa’s best chance to steal a win off the Aussies. All three Tests will be close and if a few of their gritty batters are able to dig in, particularly if it’s a low-scoring series, that gives them a chance with the bowling attack they’ve got.