Editorial: No snakes, plenty ladders

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TELFORD VICE, Perth

WE were promised beheaded snakes. We were given pointers on how to sink ships. We had our attention snagged by the use of barbed words like “nasty” and “ugly”.

And what did we get?

No snakes – only ladders – and a good ship Australia that looks a lot less sinkable than the Titanic. In some ways it was nasty, even ugly. But not in the ways we wanted.

There is a vast difference between talking a good game, as South Africa have done since they arrived in Perth at the weekend for the first cricket test against Australia, and playing one – which Faf du Plessis’ team did not do on the first day of the series on Thursday.

Instead most of the aggression came from the Australians, who have spent the better part of the past few days decrying their opponents’ pugnacious tone as if they would never stoop to such depths.

The Aussies, mind, the players who invented sledging and all that.

They have always been cricket’s cleverest critters, and perhaps that is what is happening here.

So, the Saffers want to talk themselves into a corner, do they? Well, who are we to stop them, mate?

The broader point is that, as the Americans say, it’s not bragging if you can do it.

Of course, the converse, is that if you brag about it you had better go out there and do it. Or else.

Or else what? Or else people will say you’re all talk and no action, and not without justification.

South Africa were in that unhappy place after Thursday’s play, when they batted like a ship on the rocks and bowled as if David Warner’s bat was a spitting cobra.

Part of all that is the fault of cricket’s rampant PR machine, a buffet of bumptiousness dished out daily.

When South Africa travelled to the West Indies in 1992 to play their first test since readmission, there were three press conferences in three weeks.

On Monday alone six Australians and three South Africans spoke to the press.

What’s a player to do to keep sounding interesting except say sillier and sillier things.

But, in test cricket, there’s always tomorrow. And by the time you read this South Africa’s failure to launch on day one at the WACA on Thursday could easily be a layer or three below the here and now of the moment.

Funny game, cricket.

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