Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

KG vs Starc, Faf vs Steve ... It promises to be a thriller

- LUNGANI ZAMA

DURBAN: The time for talking and speculatin­g is very nearly at an end, as South Africa and Australia lock horns in what promises to be an intriguing, four-Test series, starting in Durban on Thursday.

Plenty has happened since they last met in red-ball cricket, back in 2016. Then, South Africa produced a third straight Test triumph on Australian soil, thanks to some incisive bowling from the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Keshav Maharaj.

The compositio­n of the South African attack has changed since then, but the fundamenta­ls are still there. Rabada will be the spearhead, Vernon Philander will be the unerring one, with his compass pointed on the top of off-stump, while the likes of Morne Morkel and Lungi Ngidi will provide the muscle.

Intriguing­ly, Wiaan Mulder has been added to the squad announced by convenor Linda Zondi.

The young Lions all-rounder has better batting credential­s than Andile Phehlukway­o, and probably bowls a heavier ball.

Coach Ottis Gibson liked him on the very first day he was in the country, and it is a selection that also speaks to South Africa’s rather soft centre at the moment.

Their batting unit, still full of quality, has been desperatel­y short on quality.

The Proteas have also added man of the moment Heinrich Klaasen to the Test mix. “Klaasen has been tremendous­ly impressive in the white-ball matches he has played for the Proteas and we firmly believe he can become just as good a player in the fiveday format,” Zondi said.

“He has averaged nearly 50 with the bat in Sunfoil fourday cricket this season and hit two centuries.” Runs, in bulk, are a priceless commodity in modern Test cricket. Australia demoralise­d England by sheer weight of runs in the recent Ashes series, thanks in main to a Bradman-esque summer from skipper Steve Smith.

The Marsh brothers helped themselves to centuries against England, too, and Mitchell Marsh’s potent kick around the new ball stage is something the Proteas have to be wary of. Australia, to their immense credit, bat very deep, which means teams can’t relax even when they have them seven or eight wickets down.

Lower-order runs will play a role in the outcome of this series, and South Africa’s bowlers already know that they will have to put in a shift against a very quick attack.

The selection of Mulder suggests that South Africa may reconsider their options if things are not going well after a couple of matches.

This series will see the bulk of the matches played on the coast, which should see Nathan Lyon and Keshav Maharaj come into the reckoning in the latter stages of each content. Lyon enjoyed a wonderful Ashes series while Maharaj was on part-time duty against India. That private battle, much like so many others such as Smith against Faf du Plessis and Mitchell Starc against Kagiso Rabada, will go a long way to deciding a much-anticipate­d battle of giants.On pitches not quite as tasty as those offered for the Indian visit, it is weight of runs that will settle the matter. To this point in the season, Australia have filled their boots.

The Proteas, meanwhile, will be hoping that they have been banking their bounty for the ultimate foe.

It promises to be thrilling.

 ??  ?? KAGISO RABADA: The Proteas’ spearhead.
KAGISO RABADA: The Proteas’ spearhead.

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