Is ‘edge’ all that counts?

2012-11-04 10:00
If not Shane Warne, it would be Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie or Brett Lee all taking turns at ripping through the batting orders of visiting teams.
The Aussie fast bowlers often used home conditions to their advantage, and the conditions were just as often exploited by their batsmen.

For just under two decades, from 1992 until last year, Australia barely failed to score fewer than 350 in a first innings at home and, at one point, two individual centuries per innings was the norm.

They now have a crop of young and exciting bowlers (who City Press profiled last week), but for them to get going they will need a decent number of runs to defend.

Even though their batting riches of yesteryear have somewhat dried up, there is something about the Brisbane Cricket Ground (known as the “Gabba”) that tends to fire up the men in yellow.

The Pitch: The Gabba track, along with the Waca ground in Perth, have the reputation of being two of the fastest in the world.

Perth, the venue for the third Test, slowed down a touch before a relaid strip returned it to its former glory.

The Gabba also turned a bit when Warne was in his prime, but either a turning or a fast track could prove to be counterproductive for the hosts as the Proteas carry a well-rounded attack.

A flat track in the first Test of the last Ashes series proved a saving grace for them, even though they were pulverised in the rest of the series.

Climate: In terms of climate, the place closest to Brisbane in South Africa is Richards Bay.

It’s hot and muggy, the latter being perfect for swing.

With its tropical northeasterly location, it is prone to storms and bad light, which often ends play early. Even so, the ground has only seen four draws in the last 20 years.

Captains: The mighty Sir Viv Richards was the last touring captain to win at the Gabba. Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje and Shaun Pollock never played there because of crafty scheduling that ensured their pace attacks could not rough up the Australian batsmen.

In a recent column, former Hampshire captain and Channel 9 anchor Mark Nicholas said that current Australian Test captain Michael Clarke could hold the edge over Graeme Smith, even though he yoked off the shackles in the Proteas’ 2-0 series win against England earlier this year.

It may hold true, but whether Clarke has the personnel to see out his attacking instinct could be the moot point of the series. We already know Smith does.

»The first Test starts on Friday