Have your say on the Second Test
In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
Australia has selected an unchanged side for the Second Test against South Africa in a show of player loyalty that is good for the team. Whilst there would have been several advantages to giving Mitchell Starc a run, I think the selectors are taking an important step towards ending the chopping and changing that has caused so much uncertainty in the side over the past few seasons.
Starc could have provided important variety with his left-arm bowling. He has certainly been in good form of late and he would have created rough footmarks for Nathan Lyon to bowl into in the latter stages of the Test. But Michael Clarke and the selectors felt that the current line-up bounced back well in Brisbane and caused enough issues for the Proteas to remain together as a bowling force.
It's important that the current players have the confidence to know that one bad performance won't lead to their immediate demise. There is always so much talk in the media about who is the next player in line to be dropped. If you believed everything you read and heard you'd think David Warner and Ricky Ponting are both one failure away from disappearing from the side, and in Ponting's case for good. But both these batsmen are there for good reasons.
David Warner was seen as a short-form specialist until he was called into the Test team last season. He scored two centuries and his performance at the WACA was hailed as a breath of fresh air for Test cricket and the Australia side. His Test average is 39.60, yet after a low score in the First Test the critics have been calling for his head.
I spoke to Warner recently in a radio interview and asked him about the pressure of being the media's next player to be dropped. He said that he realised the media had a job to do but that from a team perspective he didn't feel that pressure at all. While he understands perfectly well that he is paid to score runs, he knows he has the support of his team as he battles through a dry patch.
Ricky Ponting has had an off season to work on his game and started the domestic season in sparkling form. He has said that he feels more comfortable than he has in a long time and that his recent problems have been fixed. But he scored a duck in Brisbane and suddenly people are saying his career is over. Ponting loves the Adelaide Oval like no other ground. He has scored runs at most grounds around Australia and indeed the world, but he has a particular affection for Adelaide. I only hope all the ground renovations haven't taken that familiarity and magic away for him. I think we will see the best of Ponting and he will bounce back and make his critics eat their words.
This Test and the series itself is going to be so close that either team can win it. A lot will depend on who wins the little battles within. Winning the toss and batting first in Adelaide is always an enormous step towards winning there. Like all good cricket wickets Adelaide offers some encouragement for the bowlers early, but once you survive that and make it through to Day 2, it flattens out to be an excellent batting pitch. Days 4 and 5 are when the pitch can start to play some tricks with up and down bounce and increasing turn for the spin bowlers.
South Africa has selected leg-spin bowler Imran Tahir, who can be expensive, but is also known for his ability to clean up the tail. The Proteas will have the advantage late in the Test simply because of the leg-spin option. Australia's Nathan Lyon will have a part to play as well, but when the pitch starts to turn and misbehave the leg-spinner will be at his most dangerous.
Adelaide rewards bowlers who toil and bowl a good stump-to-stump line and both teams have their share. Peter Siddle and James Pattinson have bowling styles well suited to the pitch, as do Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Australia heads into the match with their tails in the air after the way they finished in Brisbane. South Africans are very similar to Australians in the way they react to being attacked, and the Proteas will be ready to fight after being caught in some fiery exchanges in their second innings. They will come out breathing fire in Adelaide and the result could come down to which batting line-up handles the pressure best.
Should Australia have made changes for the Second Test?
Should Shane Watson come back into the side as a batsman only?
Would you pick Mitchell Starc in your first XI?