End in sight for phoney war

TMG Digital


THE phony war ends at the WACA at 4.30am (SA time) on Thursday when the first ball is scheduled to be bowled in the test series between Australia and South Africa.

Doubtless the crowd will roar, but there will also be a silence of sorts – a time for actions to speak louder than the words that have dominated the past few days.

Dale Steyn has spoken of chopping the heads off snakes and sinking ships.

Vernon Philander has expressed his willingness to get ‘nasty’, even ‘ugly’ out there.

The Australians have, for once, taken a backward step. Or have they?

David Warner has promised to “let my bat do the talking” but also claimed “that’s what happens when you evolve as a player”.

You want spice? We’ve got spice.

“I’ve seen it; looks pretty busy out there,” Faf du Plessis, who has in recent weeks said the sting has been drawn from clashes between the teams, said on Wednesday. “My line is still the same.

“When I’ve played against Australia in the past they were probably be the most verbal team in the world.

“That doesn’t mean it’s bad or good. All it means is that’s how they play.

“I think personalities do determine how you play in that space. The kind of personalities we have in our team now, we will just focus the cricket and hopefully that will take care of itself.

“The kind of players Australia have now, under the leadership of Steve Smith, are similar to ours.

“Respect the opposition and let the cricket do the talking. If it goes away from that, I don’t know how that’s going to affect the series.

“That’s certainly not the style or the personalities we have in the two teams.”

Smith was bemused to be cast as the snake Steyn aims to behead, metaphorically, at least.

“I think we’ve got a lot of batsmen in our line-up that are capable of scoring big runs,” Smith said. “They can think that way if they like.

“Hopefully they get rid of me and just start to think the rest is going to happen. That’d be nice – and hopefully our guys can cash in.

“But, yeah, it’s an interesting theory.”

Back on planet earth, the Australians have decided to leave uncapped fast bowler Joe Mennie out of their squad of 12.

That means they have picked a slow bowler: off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

But that could be because Lyon has become an integral part of their attack more than it is a bid to tailor their bowling unit to fit the likely conditions.

Smith said Peter Siddle’s 61 caps worth of test experience had helped him crack the nod ahead of Mennie.

That and Siddle’s ability to keep things tidy at one end while Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood fired from the other.

“(Siddle and Mennie) are the type who hit good areas and build pressure and keep the runs down, so they complement the others,” Smith said.

South Africa had not decided on their XI before Du Plessis spoke to the press ahead of Wednesday’s training session.

Had Du Plessis seen the pitch? And, if so, what were his thoughts on deploying a spinner?

“Unfortunately not,” he said. “I am going to do that after I speak to you guys.

“So, you can ask me that question later.”

Morne Morkel, though, would seem to be over the back problem that kept him out of South Africa’s test series against New Zealand and the one-dayers against Australia.

“He has been working extremely hard trying to get back to full fitness, and he is definitely in contention,” Du Plessis said.

Contention. Now there’s a word that has come to mind a few times this week.


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