After receiving a thumping defeat at the hands of Mitchell Johnson led Australia, the hosts South Africa face them in Port Elizabeth where the second Test between South Africa and Australia will take place on a green track.
The Aussies are sitting pretty with a 1-0 lead after Mitchell Johnson ran havoc with his bouncers which left the hosts down and out in Centurion, as the Proteas suffered a 281-run defeat. Johnson returned with career-best figures, as he grabbed a whopping 12 wickets to destroy the Proteas’ top order in both innings.
The Proteas as result will not only have to counter the mental scars from Johnson’s 150kp/h hand grande bouncers, but as can be seen from Ryan McLaren’s case, who is ruled out of the match due to a concussion which he suffered while facing Johnson at Centurion. McLaren could be replaced by another all-rounder Wayne Parnell or if the hosts decide to counter the Johnson threat with another batsman then Dean Elgar has a good chance to make a place in the starting XI.
On to South Africa’s coveted bowling attack now who were hammered all over the park by Warner–Doolan–Marsh trio in the first Test. So expect a big fight back from them led by Dale Steyn, who had a few niggles in the first Test, but seems ready to fire venom in PE. Vernon Philander, on the other hand, will be looking licking his lips on this swing friendly pitch.
Talk about the visitors team selection now where Australia is set to go into this Test without all-rounder Shane Watson once again, as he will not be able to bowl due to a thigh strain.
Michael Clarke has also made it clear that Watson will not be considered for section unless he is able to bowl, as Australia cannot afford to play him purely as a batsman.
This can be seen as a sigh of relief for Australia’s new number three Alex Doolan, who announced himself to world cricket with a solid 89, and number Shaun Marsh, who smashed a ton.
On to the bowling department where the Aussies are likely to retain the trio of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris who delivered them centurion win. Nathan Lyon will play as a lone spinner.
Players to keep an eye on:
For the hosts on a green track with some moisture in it will mean ideal conditions for fast bowler Vernon Philander to make a mark.
By his lofty standards, Philander had a poor first Test, taking just the one wicket, but he will keen to make amends and bring the Proteas back in the series.
As far as the visitors are concerned, it is hard to look beyond that man with a mustache – Mitchell Johnson is their key man. This guy has continued his Ashes form in rainbow nation as well and at least on form he can be considered the best fast bowler in the world today. This can be proven from the fact that he has taken 49 wickets in his last six Tests with an impressive average of 13. If the Proteas can somehow negate him, they would have won half the battle.
Weather and Pitch conditions:
Traditionally St George’s Park wicket has been slower and lower. This time also one can expect the same, but the only difference is covering of thick live grass which will play tricks on the first two days and as Michael Clarke believes this Test match could be over in two days.
But having said that teams winning the toss will have to be careful before inserting opposition into bat as chasing more than 200 is difficult at Port Elizabeth. Only twice in the past teams have chased scores past 200. Australia were one of them in 1997 and South Africa the other time way back in 1952.
According to the forecast, Thursday is expected to be a bit cloudy, but then sunshine will follow for the rest of the match, which may bring the spinners in the second innings.
This match is seen as a huge challenge for the Test champions and number 1 ranked team the Proteas, who head into the game mentally bruised an if they lose this series there will be a question mark over their Test supremacy.
Expect a close battle between both the sides, but Australia is riding on Mitchell Johnson should be able to close this Test and series out.