Why South African batters are lambs to the slaughter against Aussie attack

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Proteas captain Dean Elgar claims his team is “salivating” at the prospect of facing Australia but the local bowling attack should be the ones licking at their lips.

The Aussie bowlers should be hungry to rip into one of the weakest Test batting line-ups to every tour these shores, worse than the West Indies team which they just thumped 2-0.

Elgar was keeping his cards close to his chest on Friday as to the make-up of his final XI but whichever way he goes, South Africa will go into Saturday’s first Test at the Gabba with a top six possessing a mediocre record at international level. 

Apart from Elgar’s 13 tons at Test level, Usman Khawaja has as many centuries this calendar year (four) as the rest of the Proteas batting unit’s combined careers.

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In 17 innings this year, South Africa have been dismissed for less than 250 on nine occasions and have only passed 400 once. 

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 09: Dean Elgar of South Africa bats during day one of the Tour Match between Australia A and South Africa at Allan Border Field on December 09, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Dean Elgar. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Despite their lack of runs, the Proteas have managed to compile a decent record over the past 12 months, winning at home over India 2-1, splitting their two-match tour of New Zealand, returning to South Africa for a 2-0 triumph over Bangladesh before going down 2-1 in England, registering the only victory over Ben Stokes’ side in the brief BazBall era. 

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Elgar, who has the team’s highest average of 38.83 from 79 Tests, is likely to open alongside Sarel Erwee with Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn forming a statistically lacklustre middle order. 

Wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne is set to slot in at No.6 to accommodate young all-rounder Marco Jansen, who has plenty of talent but is yet to hit a half-century in his seven outings at this level. 

Proteas’ modest batting options

Player Tests Runs Average 100s 50s
Dean Elgar 79 4971 38.83 13 22
Sarel Erwee 7 367 28.23 1 1
Rassie van der Dussen 17 900 32.14 6
Temba Bavuma 51 5460 34.36 1 19
Khaya Zondo 2 39 19.5
Theunis de Bruyn 12 428 19.45 1
Kyle Verreynne 11 404 26.93 1
Heinrich Klaasen 1 11 5.5
Marco Jansen 7 688 18.59

Elgar said it was “time for myself personally to put my hand up” 

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“I always carry the weight of scoring runs. I am the senior batter, I’m very much aware of that. The weight and the burden is always on my shoulders, it’s always something I thrive on, and I think it actually brings the best out of me when I have that responsibility,” the 35-year-old told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.

“Our strength is our bowlers so you have to give them the resources to take 20 Test wickets.

“I am pro four fast bowlers and a spinner. Kesh (Maharaj) has been an amazing asset for our team. When he’s played we have had really good success so I think the balance is maybe the six (batters) and five (bowlers) option.

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“The seven and four option is not off the table. We’ve got to use our big fast bowlers, that’s been one of our catalysts.

“We don’t have any dirty laundry when it comes to playing at the Gabba because as a group we haven’t played here. The fact we haven’t played here might work in our favour.

“It is almost like a surreal moment for us. We have been here two weeks and have been salivating for this moment.”

They warmed up for the first game of the three-match series with a four-day hit-out against an inexperienced Cricket Australia XI at Allan Border Field with Elgar the only batter to notch a century with his 109 in the first innings but Verreynne (80), van der Dussen (95) and de Bruyn (88) spent some valuable time in the middle.

Elgar, who was a member of the teams that enjoyed rare series wins in Australia in 2012 and ‘16, and the sight of a green tinge to the Gabba wicket doesn’t concern him.

In fact, a seaming pitch would benefit the tourists as a low-scoring game would bring the Australian batting unit back to their level, playing to the strength of their world-class seam attack of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Jansen.

“The green colour doesn’t scare us. We know this is one of the wickets that if you can get in (while batting) you can really capitalise, and from a bowling point of view there is a length you have to hit and get rich rewards,” he said.

“The wicket does look friendly for our bowling unit, which is nice.

“You’ve got to have the mindset of ‘play to win’. That’s something I’ve been speaking at length about within our squad. Australia is a tough place to play cricket but it’s such a rewarding place if you get things right. You’ve got to go beyond what you’re used to.”

AUSTRALIA: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (capt), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland.

SOUTH AFRICA (likely XI): Dean Elgar (capt), Sarel Erwee, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada.

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