Congratulations to the Proteas for an exceptional run chase today. Whilst it was painful as an Australian cricket fan to watch at times, it was one of the better test matches in recent times on Australian soil and sets up what should be a fun series.
Whilst no Australian batsman managed to post three-figures, this side of the Australian game seems to be no concern. Certainly there are questions over the future of Matt Hayden, however no panic should exist in this regard - if Hayden continues to falter, Klinger's superb season should be rewarded and potential superstar Phil Hughes is only a year or two away. Did Australia score enough runs on a placid pitch? Probably not. Is Australia's batting a weakness? Definitely not.
Bowling, on the other hand IS a problem that should leave Australian selectors with some concerns. The loss to the Proteas in Perth has thrown light on just how much of a struggle the post Warne/McGrath era could become. Whilst Mitchell Johnson has established himself in this game as Australia's frontline bowler, his supporting cast were pretty meek.
The defeat in Perth encompasses many things. Not scoring enough runs, meek bowling and the main point: The fact that Australia were outplayed by a Proteas team which demonstrated resilience, class superior tactical nous and grace under pressure. Ricky Ponting, rather than putting his finger on any of these points instead blamed Cameron Sutherland. Yet again, Ponting demonstrates the class in defeat that has been one of the sad hallmarks of his tenure at the peak of Australian cricket. Instead of lauding the South African achievement, he blames the curator and then calls out the "passengers" in his team. Whilst many, including we of this blog have exhausted much space on the interweb deriding the tactical nous of ponting, his graceless press conferences must be considered equally damning.
Ricky Ponting considers how he scored 0 & 32 on a dull and lifeless pitch.
Again, whilst all credit must go to the victors, the punchless Australian bowling attack must come under scrutiny. Lets start with Brett Lee. Never the most cerebral of bowlers, Lee has always relied on bludgeoning batsmen out rather than thinking them out. In the last four years or so, he has bowled to a good pattern and at pace. Now as he has begun to lose his pace, he looks to be unable to adjust. Of course Lee deserves a chance to right the ship, but without the express pace, Lee could be turning his attention to a full time career in Bollywood sooner rather than later. Peter Siddle looked punchless although he looked to be the better of the bowlers on day five. Unfairly for the big quick, he will be the test matches casualty. Likely, he is the passenger to whom Ponting refers. Unless he is of course referring to Shane Watson, who was 12th man and offered a poor drinks service. Often, Ponting would wait one over, maybe two for his warm milk. Krezja, between flashes of brilliance is yet to be able to put together a long probing spell of bowling. That takes time, his potential to be quite decent should earn him some patience.
So what to do? In a perfect world, this young team would be led by Simon Katich.
This is not a perfect world.
At best we can hope for a minor tweak. I would advocate a squad for Boxing day of Hayden, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Symonds, Haddin, Johnson, Lee, Hifenhaus, Krezja and Bollinger. If the deck doesn't look conducive to spin - I would happily go in with that four man pace attack. Bollinger and Hilfenhaus both deserve to make their test debuts and both offer more than Siddle did in Perth.
For what it's worth, it was a pretty dull Perth deck in this match. However, it produced a result. Australia managed to lose 20 wickets on it. Ponting, a guy with Australia's best job should have the generosity to not put the spotlight on a guy who earns maybe 5% of what he earns. For all of the intensity of the Border, Taylor and Waugh years, there was still a graciousness in defeat that is lacking under Ponting.