Stage perfectly set for exhilarating SA vs Australia showdown in PE
To be fair‚ there always was a sense of inevitability about Australia's 118-run win in the first Test that concluded in its now infamously distasteful manner.
Australia know how to win in South Africa‚ regardless of their personnel. Faf du Plessis's side will be hard-pressed to find a response in Port Elizabeth.
It's a pity the Test will forever be remembered as the staircase test because of the David Warner/Quinton de Kock incident.
While it was unnecessary‚ it adds an intriguing sub-plot for the rest of the series: the one of who walks the talk best.
Sledging has been part of cricket since time immemorial.
Because of the sport's ability to accommodate people from all walks of life‚ characters will be as different as finger prints. There's a limit to everything and clearly‚ lines were blurred in the test.
The one thing Australians‚ who at times think they have a god-given right to sledge regardless of their match positions‚ need to realise is that when you give it‚ you've got to be able to take it.
There's no space in the game for potty brats who'll mouth off and throw their toys out of the cot at the first sign of resistance.
We've seen this in the past where Australians (remember Glenn McGrath and Ramnaresh Sarwan in 2003) find it easy to be personal but make a right-royal mess of things when the shoe is on the other foot.
This isn't to exonerate De Kock but who decides when verbal missive is personal and which one isn't?
If you don't take the time to examine a person's character strengths and weaknesses‚ you're better served by zipping up and letting the game take its natural course. The scoreboard is the best talker.
Cricket needs sledging but cricketers are educated enough to know how‚ when and most importantly‚ what to sledge about.
On the playground‚ a “yo mamma's joke” invariably leads to fisticuffs but there's no place for that on the oval. If Warner truly had a go at De Kock's family‚ a response about his wife was deserved.
While it's true an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind‚ it also metes out justice in its own way.
It's sad that such an epic test that took place on a ground that 25 years ago acquainted South Africa with the destructive force of reverse swing will be remembered for potty mouths.
Back in 1993 at Kingsmead‚ Waqar Younis gave South Africa a taste of the irresistibly moving ball that decimated their then callow batting line-up.
Mitchell didn't do it once‚ but twice‚ sawing off the Proteas' lower-order order at the knees. Starc's spell is probably the best display of reverse swing bowling seen on these shores since Waqar and Wasim Akram messed up Kepler Wessels's side.
The lithe and slingy Starc has the pace‚ the accuracy and the stamina of both legendary Pakistani's. He channelled them into his 28.4 overs that produced 9/108.
Serious questions linger for South Africa: What's the plan to combat the late swing? In Dale Steyn's absence‚ can Kagiso Rabada swing it as late and consistently as Starc? Can the lower-order find some fortitude and more importantly‚ can the big names follow the trail blazed by the imperious Aiden Markram?
To answer these questions in the following order; the reverse swing matter could follow the teams around throughout the series.
Depending on the direction of the wind‚ St George's Park is amenable to reverse swing while dry Cape Town will assist rapid ball deterioration.
The best approach would be to force Starc to bowl a shorter length. From time to time‚ Starc's fuller length gives away drive balls but once the ball's hooping‚ he becomes a nightmare.
It's easier said than done but it needs South Africa's terrific trio of Hashim Amla‚ AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis to flex their considerable batting muscle.
On paper‚ South Africa has a better line-up than Australia but this wasn't apparent in Durban.
This will help the lower-order to deal with the other bowler who may not be as effective as Starc with the older ball but are world-class in their own right.
Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are rapid but don't possess the kind of threat posed by Starc.
Aiden Markram showed the Australian bowling attack doesn't quite have the requisite answers when the attack is taken to them.
Quinton de Kock's return to form and Theunis de Bruyn's solidity could embolden South Africa's tail but they need their big men to front up.
Finally‚ Rabada can swing the ball and easily matches Starc for pace but the conditions in Port Elizabeth will have a big say.