South Africa v Australia – First Test, Durban: Thoughts and comments?

Day 4:

Australia               351
South Africa         162
Australia               227
South Africa         9/293





This was posted on Thursday morning – check the ongoing comments at the end:


The four Test series between South Africa and Australia starts tonight.


The First Test is at Kingsmead in Durban. Durban can produce anything – from humidity and rain (last Test there v NZ was a washout) to wickets that offer a bit to everyone. Spinners do OK at Durban – just ask Simon Katich. Australia won there in 2009 – the Phil Hughes Test. If you can name that Australian side you are a dead-set genius. Here’s the scorecard.


I reckon this is one of the more enticing Test series in recent times, given the performance of Australia over the summer, and the relatively settled nature of the Australian side.


If you chose the South Africa-India coverage ahead of the Big Bash (or flicked between them) you’d have recognised top-level competitive cricket on wickets which had excellent carry and some sideways movement. Bowlers could show their craftsmanship. Batsmen had to play shots – to occupy the crease was Death Row. Tactics were important, and varied according to the moment in the game. It was absorbing cricket.


I’m not sure sheer pace will trouble either side but both attacks have quicks who can loiter in D. Fleming’s Corridor of Uncertainty. They move the pill and they will make you play.


So which side will take the batting initiative?


I have no inkling as to what might happen, although I have more confidence in the techniques of the South African top order, than the Australians. I’m interested to hear some predictions.


The Australian XI is the same as Sydney:
Australia XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (c), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood




South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.


Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.


The other Tests:


First Test:        Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5.

Second Test:   St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13.

Third Test:       Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26.

Fourth Test:     Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3


About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. JTH.

    Would you believe that I got 9 of the 11 from 2009?
    The two I missed were Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus.

    I am always suspicious when a home country announces how they expect the decks to be prepared. To me, that tends to mean they want the opposite! Some very “sporting” decks during the India series.

  2. You’re a better man than I am Smoke.

    I missed the all-rounder, the other opener, and the two you mention.

  3. I reckon McDonald played most – if not all – of the Tests in Watto’s absence, and was a handy stock bowler, but never played again.

  4. When gazing at scorecards like this, one asks so many questions aregarding P Hughes.
    Would he have fulfilled his talent? Would the selectors have allowed him to?

  5. Ponder at the scorecard in quite remembrance and respect RIP Phil Hughes ( and a touch of irony off to a funeral for a lovely lady re Norwood fc royalty,Colleen Jarrett shortly )
    A lot of questions about the Aust batting for mine I detest world cricket re only one warm up game and even worse the stupidity re Warner playing bloody 20 20 thanks JTH

  6. Should be a ripper series. The Africorns probably have the edge in class. Faf and de Villiers give that team a lot of spine. Sayers might have an impact in this series. I hope they play him when the time’s right.

    Smoke, getting 9 of the 11 is remarkable.

  7. Dips, I reckon PJF would get the entire 11.

  8. Andrew Mcdonald, all four of his tests were against V South Africa. Three wins, one loss, the latter being in Bryce McGains sole test.

    If we’re recalling Australian Test Teams playing on the Veldt, how many can recall the players who went down 4-0 in the 1969-70 series? I’ll drop a clue, the two members of the touring squad who didn’t play a test were ‘Jock’ Irvine and ‘Slug’ Jordan. The other thirteen, including captain Bill Lawry, were …???


  9. I’ll have a crack, Glen.

    I reckon WH Lawry and KR Stackpole were the openers, because Simpson had gone by then.
    IM Chappell, KD Walters were in the middle order. Was I Redpath on that tour? If so, I don’t reckon he did much! This was pre-GS Chappell, so was P Sheahan there?
    I have no idea who the keeper was.
    Bowlers are a little easier in that Garth McKenzie and Alan Connolly were the openers, with AA Mallett the spinner. I have a feeling Johnny Gleeson was thereabouts also. Cannot recall who were the supporting bowlers, but something tells me that Eric Freeman was on that tour. Did he play a Test? That’s about all I recall.

  10. Dave Brown says

    Also got nine – missed Hussey and Siddle to my shame. Pretty amazing that that bowling attack delivered 3-1 overseas, McDonald was much more than handy in that series.

    Would be surprised if we do well here this time, perhaps it’s about time for South Africa to win a home series against us (I got seven of the remaining 12 from 1970, Glen. Very impressive Smokie, you only missed Taber). Reckon we might see a few spectacular collapses.

  11. Ta Dave and Smokie. The thirteen players who wore the baggy green in that series were:

    Bill Lawry
    Keith Stackpole
    Ian Chappell
    Paul Sheehan
    Ian Redpath
    Doug Walters
    ‘Berty’ Taber
    Graham McKenzie
    Eric Freeman
    Laurie Mayne
    John Gleeson
    Ashley Mallett
    Alan Connolly


  12. E.regnans says

    Ahh, thanks JTH for whetting the appetite.
    I’m looking forward to seeing how these players face their moments.
    How they treat triumph and disaster.
    Hoping to knock together a crystal radio set this evening.

    Any thoughts on playing two or three or four spinners at Cape Town..?
    Can’t imagine they’d be watering the centre wicket area too heavily.

  13. Smith’s Weaklies – “Up in class. First time this way of going. Prefer others.”
    I have strong (if not accurate) memories of the 69/70 Tour. Australia had seen off an ageing West Indies team in 68/69 (Sobers; Kanhai; Hall; Gibbs) and then a young Ian Chappell and Walters dominated the Indian spinners in a tour that immediately preceded South Africa (can’t imagine the little darlings being away for months on such a gruelling schedule these days).
    As a 14yo I thought this was the dawning of a new golden age for Australian cricket. Like Ashes tours you could listen to the first session while falling asleep and then wake up to the morning summary of the rest of the day’s play. Suddenly my supermen had met a team full of kryptonite.
    A young Barry Richard debuted. Graeme Pollock unexpectedly the second best batsman in the world (daylight third). A young Ali Bacher got a few games from memory. Eddie Barlow uppercutting at the top of the order when openers were supposed to be wearing out the bowlers and the shine. Mike Proctor making the new ball spit and fizz – right arm chest on with a left armers feet (Tangles on steroids). Captain Peter (Pieter?) Van Der Merwe seemed their to add authority more than runs – a precursor to Brearley. And then when McKenzie and Connolly had disposed of all the batting threats, an unknown wicketkeeper called Dennis Lindsey made more runs than Gilchrist in his pomp.
    I remember thinking this was like my SA footy heroes getting feet of clay when they stepped on the MCG against the Big V. My suspicion is that without the rightful Apartheid ban that South African side would have proved itself second only to Clive Lloyd’s Windies as the greatest of my lifetime.
    (Now I better go and check Cricinfo for the reliability of my memory. Errata to follow.)

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Have been really looking forward to this Test series.
    Disappointing the crowd hasn’t turned up for the opening day, but it is March.
    Many comments on Twitter about South Africa not getting crowds to Test cricket, but the stands were mostly full during the Indian series. No doubt aided by being played in January plus many Indian’s in the crowd.
    Rabada currently bowling to Smith. This is cricket at it’s absolute best.

  15. 5/225 – knife’s edge. Brilliant stuff.

    If the Aussies can sneak to 320 that would be OK. This wicket seems to produce the odd gem of a ball. Hazelwood, Starc and Cummins will be tough to deal with.

  16. craig dodson says

    Am I the only person who finds it incredibly irritating watching Steve Smith Bat? The exaggerated leaves and shouting ‘No’ for all 3214 spectators to hear when bunting it to cover really gets on my nerve. Also, I’m finding his unorthodox technique and crease fidgeting a turn off as well.

    Good luck to him, he is an absolute star with his output, but I just don’t enjoy watching him bat.

  17. Massive difference between aesthetic and function.

    Funny old Day 1. Neither team could keep the pressure on for long enough.

  18. One thing that should be said: the umpiring was outstanding.

  19. Craig – I must say I quite like watching him bat because his technique is so unorthodox. Its like watching a southpaw boxer. I find myself marvelling at how he just picks them off middle stump. Like plucking sparrows out of the sky. Intriguing.

    Hanscomb’s new technique is the one that annoyed me. All fidget and no result.

  20. Superb day of tough Test cricket.
    Bancroft looked terrible in his brief stay. His technique will just not cut it at Test level, I’m afraid.
    Usman looked good until nicking a ball that he should have just left alone.
    Warner and Smith made it look easy until getting out.
    A good rear-guard action from M Marsh and Paine – very valuable runs.
    300 runs will be more than handy on this deck. The Saffas have to bat last. Plenty of balls turning already.

  21. Dave Brown says

    Dan Brettig’s summary of the day’s play is the best I have read thus far:

    Very interesting start to the series.

  22. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Anyone sample the two radio offerings?

  23. I’d be happy with 300. The pitch is low,slow with those cracks/rough from from Philander’s footmarks noticeable. Didn’t Maharaj’s first ball spin !!!

    Smokie, Bancroft has to go, but who opens with Warner. I heard S Marsh mentioned but he’s been in career best form in the middle order; do we risk moving him ? Handscombe is the only batsmen in the squad, is not in god form, or is he an opener. Maybe the selectors may regret discarding Renshaw so quickly.

    Saying all that we’re not badly placed at stumps. Some more runs in the morning, the home sides batting last, the future is unwritten.


  24. Keiran Croker says

    I think the plan should Bancroft be discarded is to shuffle up everyone by one, Ussie to open, Smith at 3, S.Marsh at 4, then Handscomb.
    Payne is proving his class at 7, a very good cricketer who reads the game well, that is he knows what’s required.
    Let’s see how our quicks and Lyon go, 300 may be a good score especially with Lyon bowling in 4th innings.
    By the way I love watching Smith bat, though Ussie and S.Marsh are the most stylish … if they can get past 20!

  25. Mick Jeffrey says

    On the crowd situation, on a work day that Thursday was given the conditions prevalent and with the beach literally a 10 minute walk away (yes I’ve timed it, well sort of anyway, and I’m back there in June this year) why would you spend time in a stadium (albiet one that isn’t a concrete canyon that many grounds are) when the beach and food outlets are calling?

  26. G’day PB. Have you had time to reference Cricinfo ? You seem to have merged aspects of the 1966-67 & 1969-70 tours.

    This was Mitch Marsh’s best knock. Away from home, under pressure, he delivered. Mitchell Starc with bat & ball was pivotal.

    We have a big lead. The wicket won’t become more batsmen friendly, or I don’t think so, so we can press home the advantage to get 1-0 up.


  27. Rulebook says

    Great day for Aust ( ironic re me I find it bemusing where people keep talking about Smith’s supposed unorthodox technique ignore the fidgeting and unusual movements till the bowler bowls he is then perfect re head movement in so many ways copybook technique) Starc around the wicket and then the outswing lethal combination and Lyon goes from strength to strength.M Marsh is getting there ability was never the question it was game plan lack of he is learning the art of batting.Starc batting and then
    M Marsh-Lyon partnership was important re momentum.

  28. Good point re Smith RB, but his initial shuffling is very unnerving.

    The Aussies showed a lot of grit. Marsh must have batted with aplomb (didn’t see it). The Africorns have a struggle on their hands now. De Villiers is a star.

  29. What a cricketer is Nathan Lyon. Of course he was behind the stumps for the de Villiers run out,

    And that run out had the polish of the best MLB play.

  30. Andrew Starkie says

    Good Test match. Loving it.

    Starc, Lyon – all our bowlers – have been too good so far.

    Happy for Cummings – has changed his bowling action which should keep him fit.

  31. Am the only woman at the Almanac who loves cricket? No females chatting above.

    Have watched every minute of this great Test Match – except when the Fox recording stopped on one session and I missed Mitch Starc’s three-haul.

    Looking forward to all remaining matches, and if it doesn’t interfere with the start of the footy season, and Qld finishes up in the Shield final, you’ll probably see me up in Brissie for that at towards the end of March.

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