TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE colour of the ball and the hours of play can change as much as they like. What won’t change, despite everything that has happened to test cricket in its history of 139 years, is that bowlers will still win matches.
It was that way shortly after 1pm on March 15, 1877 when England’s Alfred Shaw lobbed the first delivery in the very first test match at Australia’s Charles Bannerman at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and it will be that way when Australia and SA square up in their test series in November.
And it’s in those terms that Paul Harris thinks SA will have the edge.
“If Dale, Vernon and Rabada get it right we’re going to be tough to beat,” the former SA left-arm spinner said.
That would be Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada – probably SA’s first-choice seamers, although Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott would make decent arguments to the contrary.
Matthew Short captained the Cricket Australia XI that had to contend with that lot in a day/night tour match at Adelaide Oval at the weekend.
“They are some of the best bowlers in the world, and the challenge for us was the pink ball because none of us have faced that,” Short told reporters in Adelaide. “Especially with these kinds of bowlers.
“As the sun went down it was definitely harder to bat, but I think just the quality of their bowlers made it difficult for us.
“I don’t think the ball or the conditions or the light affected us.
“It was just the skills set of their bowlers.”
Each of SA’s five quicks took two wickets to dismiss the home side for 103 with Short’s 57 their only score in double figures.
The Australian test team looms as a far higher hurdle than a young side in which no-one went into the match with more than half-a-dozen first-class caps, but Harris would not be swayed from his view that SA were the early favourites for the series.
“Our top six is as good if not better than theirs – they have a few questions around their top six,” he said.
“The only question-mark around us is the allrounder at No. 7. It would have been the perfect time to play (Chris) Morris or (Wayne) Parnell.
“Now it looks like we’re going to gave to play three seamers and a spinner or four seamers.”
That will be revealed at the toss before the first test at the WACA on November 3.
The series then moves to Hobart before the South Africans return to Adelaide for what could be the decider.
It will be played using the pink ball and partly under lights.
Shaw and Bannerman would no doubt be shocked to discover what has happened to the game they used to play.
But they would recognise it for what it is: test cricket fit for the modern age.