Move Over Ashes: Australia-South Africa Is Now Test Cricket’s Most Explosive Rivalry
I remember when JP Duminy, playing in his first series, combined with the indomitable AB de Villiers to chase over 400 in the fourth innings in Perth in the 2008-09 season, the defining moment in the series which saw the touring South Africans become the first side to win a test series in Australia since the legendary West Indian side of old. It was the symbolic end to Australia’s decade-and-a-half dominance of test match cricket, the Australians responded with a vengeance in the return tour of South Africa in 2009, claiming the series after Mitchell Johnson’s all-round dominance.
The two sides have since continued to belie the growing trend of strength at home and submission away, with the touring team coming away with honors on each occasion since. This has allowed the cricket fan the now-rare treat of seeing players exhibit their talents with dominance abroad in the longest format of the game.
To really understand why this has been the most exciting test cricket played of late you must simply watch the games as much as you can. Both teams function under roughly similar templates, with consistently world-class pace batteries and merciless batsmen. Their closeness in conditions and team makeups has perhaps been the contributing factor to the closeness of the cricket, which has see-sawed unpredictably from session to session, seemingly swinging one way only for a counter of brilliance to swing it back.
The Ashes have been terribly boring since 2005. Matches are scarcely competitive, with the Australians hapless against swing in England and the English lost against the pace barrage Down Under. India and Pakistan have not played test match cricket since 2007. India and Australia is always tense, but the Australians remain essentially terrible at playing spin and the Indian pacers have never got their act together in Australia. Australia versus South Africa is where it’s at. Just so far this series, there have been amazing performances, from young gun Markram asserting his importance to the side with a battling century in the first test, to AB de Villiers reminding us of his quality with a breathtaking first century in three years.
Think back at Pat Cummins taking five wickets on debut, all of eighteen years old. Phil Hughes carving his way to two centuries in a match against a fearsome attack. Amla and Smith taking the Australians to the sword on a Perth flyer. Ryan Harris charging in, desperate to win the series for his country on ravaged knees. Savor these last two tests before IPL season; this is what cricket is about.
Image credit: Reuters