TELFORD VICE, Melbourne
TEAMS who win as convincingly as South Africa did when they beat Australia in the first test at the WACA don’t often contemplate making changes.
But the visitors do not have that choice – they have to replace Dale Steyn for the second test at Bellerive Oval in Hobart, which starts on Saturday.
Australia are in the same boat, what with opening batsman Shaun Marsh ruled out because of a broken finger.
The home side’s woes deepened on Tuesday when Peter Siddle was removed from the equation with a sore back.
The WACA match was Siddle’s first test after he suffered a stress fracture of the back in February.
Steyn was invalided out of the series on Friday with a fractured shoulder and looks likely to spend the next six months, at least, on the sidelines.
Despite that catastrophe South Africa delivered one of the most memorable performances in test history to win by 177 runs.
Who needs an XI? Why not send those same 10 brave men into the fray in Tasmania?
The prosaic Russell Domingo wasn’t about to entertain such flights of fancy: “We’ve got two options at the moment – Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel.
“Morne is coming off a back injury. We’ll assess him two days before the test and make the call on whether he is 100% fit. Kyle Abbott is a consistent, solid performer.”
Then there’s Dwaine Pretorius, who has been summoned as Steyn’s substitute in the squad.
But, having scored three half-centuries in four innings of franchise first-class cricket season and taken only eight wickets, Pretorius clearly is not a like-for-like replacement.
Then again, neither is Bellerive anything like the WACA.
“We need to weigh up what type of bowler we want to use in the conditions in Hobart, because I think they are different to what they are here.”
The WACA is renowned for its pace and bounce but Bellerive – where South Africa have never played a test – tends to reward less emphatic virtues.
“It’s a fascinating series because all three venues have totally different conditions,” Domingo said.
“I’ve never been to Hobart; I’ve heard its cold.
“The wickets are a little New Zealand-like; a little slower, and you’re very much dependent on what the weather does in terms of how easy batting is.
“Adelaide (where the third test will be played as a day-nighter) is totally new challenge, so its three different sets of conditions and you need to think of three different combinations.”
Morkel, assuming he is fit, might miss out if bounce is a lesser factor in Hobart.
But he was South Africa’s most dependable bowler when Steyn missed six of eight tests through injury last season.
Abbott is also reliant on bounce but with a touch of swing and seam thrown in, and he claimed 4/40 against the Aussies in a one-day international last month.
And at St George’s Park, no less, home to South Africa’s most New Zealand-like pitch.
Pretorius bowls skiddy away-swingers, not the worst skill for a pitch that might have Kiwi characteristics.
So South Africa have choices. Making the right one is the hard part.