ICL: Indian Cricket League

Test of stamina for Australia’s young blood


A three-day break between hard-fought Test matches is the ultimate test of endurance for young cricketers and Australia have plenty of those. Men like Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Phillip Hughes are more accustomed to the longer lay-offs separating four-day domestic games and on a fast, bouncy Durban pitch their stamina will be seriously examined when the second Test begins on Friday.

Adding to the difficulty is that Siddle and Hilfenhaus both left Johannesburg with minor injuries - Siddle had a problem with his left foot and Hilfenhaus with his back. Both men bowled in the Kingsmead nets on Thursday and neither appeared seriously troubled but the challenge of surviving for five days of Test cricket will require not only physical but also mental toughness.

“It’s not (Sheffield) Shield where you’ve got a couple of weeks break between games,” the captain Ricky Ponting said. “It’s all back on you again and you can’t get carried away with what you did last week or think the game’s going to be easy and think it’s going to flow on because it’s not like that. They’re the things we are going to address with those guys.

“One thing we do know about the South Africans is they’ll be very well-planned. We know that they’ll be ready for us so it’s about those guys now taking the next step as well and lifting their own games and making sure that last week wasn’t just a one-off performance for them. One Test match doesn’t mean a series, it doesn’t mean a career.”

However, a win in Durban would mean the series for Australia and it would mean a superb start to the careers of several of Australia’s newest players. South Africa’s coach Mickey Arthur has spoken of how his men will attack Australia’s young opener Hughes and the more experienced first-class player Marcus North having learnt more about their styles in Johannesburg.

North and Hughes both starred with the bat on debut at the Wanderers while their fellow debutant Hilfenhaus and the inexperienced Test players Siddle and Andrew McDonald made important contributions with the ball. South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith was disappointed with how little pressure his men applied on Australia’s new faces and he is hoping his team can turn the young Australians’ tour into an up-and-down trip.

“I think it’s something that we can exploit,” Smith said. “The only way we can exploit that is if we play to our potential. If we really are disciplined we can create a lot of pressure on them. That’s something we never really did in Johannesburg, we maybe did it in short bursts but we weren’t able to sustain it for the period that we did in Australia and last year.

“That was a bit frustrating from our perspective because we know we’re capable of that. Sustaining that pressure on them from ball one right till the end is the only way you’re going to really see if they can handle it or not. If we allow them to play the way they know, then they’re just going to go about it and probably not have the fear.”

South Africa are hoping to have a more complete attack than in Johannesburg, where Jacques Kallis battled a back injury and was restricted to bowling 13 overs for the match. Smith said he was expecting a strong contribution from Kallis in Durban.

“He’s progressed really nicely,” Smith said. “I’m pretty comfortable. Yesterday he came through his 20 or 30 balls in the nets very well and he’s made it through a day of batting so I’m pretty comfortable with where he is and I think he’ll get through the Test match fine.”

Australia would also like to call on one of their star batsmen for some overs at Kingsmead, where they are unlikely to use a specialist spinner. Michael Clarke’s back problem meant he was unable to bowl in Johannesburg but Ponting said there was no way he would be able to keep Clarke away from the bowling crease any longer.

“Pup (Clarke) was keen to have a bowl during the last Test match actually,” Ponting said. “I had to tell him not to, just to cool his heels there for a while. We’ve got some match-ups that we think Michael Clarke will work well against. We’ll keep those to ourselves but you might see him have a bowl in this game at some stage. He’ll certainly be fit enough now.”

The main question for Australia is whether that last statement applies to every member of their side. A young and inexperienced team that deserved praise for Monday’s victory is about to be given its hardest test yet.

Source:Cricket News

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