I’m not too sure whether it is possible to truly exorcise demons in a dead rubber. Who cares after all? But I have to admit that for a dead rubber, this was a pretty good Test match. There have been plenty of close finishes over the years, with Australia on the wrong end of many of them, but I struggle to think of one that was a dead rubber. Nonetheless, South Africa and Australia, fuelled I suspect, by deep rooted ill feeling for each other, went hard at it at til the bitter end. And bitter it was for the Boks, going down five out of six times.
And there was deja vu on many fronts: I clearly remember (I was holidaying in a friend’s ocean-side apartment on the north coast) listening to Australia scrape home nine years ago, just prior to the 1997 series . The margin on that occasion was also 8 wickets – Ian Healy smote a rare six to bring home the bacon. I was often mentioned how long Australia had held the Ashes for. It should not be forgotten that South Africa has not won a series against Australia since its re-admission into internation sport. Which means they have not won a series against Australia since the 1970 whitewash – 36 years.
I don’t know if Damien Martyn has any demons remaining from 6 January, 1994 – I think he might have put the past behind him – you all would know that Martyn made a painful 6 from 59 balls on that day before committing suicide (both in the innings and his career), as Australia fell 5 runs short of South Africa’s total. That began a seven year exile. I think this innings, was far more important to Martyn in cementing his place back in the team. I’d doubt it will be for another seven years, however.
And then of course, the obvious comparison is Kasper and Brett Lee falling two runs short at Edgbaston. While it might have been nice for them to have success here, I don’t see how anything could ever make up for that gut wrenching affair in August 2005.
Now that the dust has settled, I wonder how far ahead of the 2005 team, the current Australian team is. There is no doubt that this team is better and 3-0 nil against a reasonable opposition, away from home is a good result. The main difference can be expressed in one word: Hussey. And while this team is minus McGrath, Stuart Clark was an encouraging, surprise discovery. While on the subject of deja vu, I saw quite a bit in this series: Ponting still stood tall in the top order (although he had help from Hayden). Lee and Warne batted like champions, especially in the final Test, to help Australia stay in it. And perhaps most worrying for the Aussies, Gillie is looking pretty sick with willow in hand. He scored almost half his 50 series runs in one over.
Symonds is the weakest link. No question in mind. I don’t know if the “all rounder project” is Trevor Hohns’ baby, but with his resignation, it will be interesting to see if Symonds is the first to go. Of recent times, it has been said that Symonds is a specialist batsman who can bowl a bit. It’s a bit of a joke that a guy with an average of 58 (Hodge) was unceremoniously shafted and Symonds hangs on with an average of 19.42 from nine Tests. Brett Lee’s average is 19.58 and he averages over 20 against England, New Zealand and the West Indies. So there’s the all rounder. He just needs to come up the order a little. And let’s not forget Pup Clarke. I still think he is the man for the long term.
I have one final comment on this series. Ricky Ponting has strongly advocated that all teams agree for batsmen to depart if a fieldsman claims a fair catch. This hasn’t been greeted with anything approaching unanimous enthusiasm. There have been some ugly instances during this series, with players not going when fielders have claimed catches. And as it has turned out, Australia seems to have come out best in pretty much all of those cases, whether batting or in the field. I think it’s time that Ponting and his team start practising what they preach. My opinion is that if you promote a value or standard, you should live by that regardless of whether it is accepted by your peers.
And news in brief:
Jason Gillespie has been recalled to the Australian squad for the upcoming tour of Bangladesh. Gillespie has been added along with Phil Jacques and Mitchell Johnson. The trio will replace Shaun Tait, Michael Kasprowicz and Justin Langer.
Pakistan has beaten Sri Lanka by 8 wickets to take the two Test series one nil. Sri Lanka batted first and lead by just over 100 runs on the first innings. However, they capitulated for 73 in the second innings. The star was new boy Mohammad Asif, with match figures of 11-71.