Pace aces may force pitch rethink: Boof | cricketnetwork.com

Pace aces may force pitch rethink: Boof

14 January 2018

Coach believes strength of Australia's Ashes-winning quicks may force Proteas to consider producing flatter wickets for upcoming Test bout

South Africa's powers-that-be might think twice about equipping their much-vaunted pace attack with fast and bouncy pitches for the four-Test series against Australia in March, says Darren Lehmann.

Australia's national coach believes his pace-bowling brigade of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood might be enough to convince the Proteas to prepare flatter tracks for Steve Smith's side, who will be coming off a four-nil thrashing of England in the Magellan Ashes when they head across the Indian Ocean.

That trio picked up 66 scalps between them (Cummins 23, Starc 22, Hazlewood 21) out of the 87 English wickets to fall across the five Tests, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon also contributing 21. 

On a spicy wicket for the first Test of their ongoing series against India at Newlands, South Africa's brilliant pace quartet of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander led them to a resounding victory against the world's No.1-ranked Test team, despite Steyn again breaking down.

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Day one of the second Test in Centurion was a different story, with India off-spinner Ravi Ashwin getting through 31 overs and claiming three wickets as the hosts finished 6-269 on what initially appears to be a less pace-friendly pitch. 

Lehmann said that current series in South Africa would impact selections for the Australia squad, but only to a point.

"It does (factor into the selectors' thinking)," he said on ABC program Offsiders. "(But) you've got to hedge your bets a little bit - I'm not sure they'll produce fast wickets against us, but only time will tell.

"The first Test they won quite comfortably, it was a green wicket in Cape Town. This one's flat – totally different. (Former SA skipper) Graeme Smith came out and said it's too slow – 30 overs from a spinner on day one."

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Australia have not been beaten in a Test series in South Africa since the Proteas' readmission to international cricket in the early 90's, and Mitchell Johnson proved a key factor on their last visit to the Rainbow Nation as they won the 2013-14 series 2-1. 

The left-arm quick took 22 wickets across those three Tests, though just three in the second Test, which South Africa won on a flat track in Port Elizabeth. 

"It'll be interesting to see what we get there," Lehmann added of the pitches. "They've got some new players, they're a quality bowling attack. 

"Last time we went there we played really well, then they came over here and played well against us when we lost last year, so it's going to be a great series."

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