TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
PLENTY has been said and written about the differences in approach between Australia and SA, and a new chapter will doubtless be added to the saga in their triangular series match in Providence at 7pm (SA time) on Tuesday.
But the games the teams have played against West Indies in this tournament tell the story in their own way.
On Friday SA batted like rusty robots, losing their last seven wickets for 28 runs on their way to a total of 188 and defeat by four wickets.
On Sunday Australia blitzed the Windies out for 116 and bullseyed their target in 25.4 overs with six wickets standing.
West Indies fielded the same XI in both games, but what does the fact that they chased against SA and set, or tried to set, a target against the Aussies do to the equation?
The Windies have won 159 of the 332 matches in which they have taken guard first – that’s 47.9% – and 215 of their 404 games batting last: 53.22%. So, it seems easier to beat them when they are not given the opportunity to hunt down a target.
Both games were played in Providence’s otherworldly conditions, which prompted this from one of SA’s batsmen: “It was a bit difficult. We expected a bit of a subcontinent surface and that’s exactly what we got.
“It was very difficult to force the ball off the square and we had to look to rotate the strike. We needed to find a way to get the runs on the board.
“Without high risk we were still going at four runs an over and we knew the average score on this ground was just above 200.
“We knew if we could bat until about 45 overs and then have a great big bash at the end. It didn’t happen.
“It’s not the start we wanted. We wanted to win. We came here to win. Things happened how they happened.”
That was Rilee Rossouw, who came the closest of his teammates to agreeing terms with the slow pitch and was rewarded with a gutsy 61.
He was among eight members of SA’s team who played their first international in any format in Caribbean conditions on Friday. On Sunday five Australians did the same.
The Australian squad includes seven players who had been there and done that in the West Indies before the triseries. SA’s squad? Four.
Those advantages will count for something, but it is up to the newbies in both squads to make the best use of their limited experience.
“We are going to learn from our mistakes and come hard against Australia,” Rossouw said. “We’ve got a fairly good idea of what’s happening now, we know what to expect.”
So does Neil McKenzie, SA’s batting consultant: “There were a lot of dot balls in the first game, 152 dot balls. We are looking to try and rotate the strike a little bit more; hit with the spin and utilise the space, run hard.
“Boundaries aren’t that easy to come by. It’s easier to set a platform and really hit at the death, going for your big shots later on rather than upfront. The skilled shots over cover and midwicket are not that easy on a deck where its really slow and there is some purchase.”
The sheer drive the Australians took to their chase on Sunday made it plain that navel-gazing will not be indulged in their dressingroom, and to hell with what the pitch is doing. Neither are they about to upset the balance between thinking and doing.
Doers will beat thinkers any day of the week, on any pitch, and regardless of what has been said and written.