What I’m looking forward to:
The bowling units
- Regardless of the life or lifelessness of the pitches, the curators prepare for the 3 test series, the quality of both bowling attacks are unquestionable. However, the experience and maturity of the South African attack, especially on home soil in what should be favourable conditions, might prove to be the difference.
- How the South African captain, leadership group and bowling unit approach the problem that is Steve Smith will also be worth watching. England tried many different strategies, from trying to starve him of run-scoring opportunities and make him chase balls outside off-stump, short balls at the body with catchers on the leg side behind square, balls at the legs with catchers on the leg side in front of square, short balls outside off with catchers in the gully etc all proved relatively unsuccessful.
- How the Australian bowling unit adapt to the pictures in South Africa that May or may not bounce and produce the same pace that they are used to. Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood need to alter their lengths appropriately and not overuse the short ball. They will have to ensure the whole team remains disciplined with ball maintenance as they will most likely need to extract some reverse swing to get through South Africa’s experienced batting line up.
The Australian selector's faith
- Cameron Bancroft is playing on borrowed time and is in need of a long and productive innings against top quality bowlers. Runs against the A-team might be good for his personal confidence but won’t count for much if he doesn’t make a big score in the first test. Given the composition of the touring squad, Shaun Marsh or Khawaja would need to step up to open if Bancroft were to fail repeatedly, but I hope to see him make at least a couple of fifties if not score his maiden test century.
- Similar to Bancroft, Khawaja needs to step up and contribute big scores more often. For a man talented enough to make batting look easy, the frequency with which he goes out to “soft-dismissals” is rather worrying. He needs to push his average up this tour and repeated failures may see him make way for Handscomb.
How the drought will affect proceedings
- If Dale Steyn can make another successful return from injury and who makes way for him and correspondingly, whether Morne Morkel’s retirement announcement ensures his place in the side til the end of the series, regardless of form & performance.
- And last but not least, I’ll be keeping a watch on how many people bother to go to the ground to watch this series. Historically, some of the best cricket is played between these two sides; but this time, coming at the tail end of a long southern summer of cricket, the paying public may have had enough cricket for the season.