Smith calls for Aussie batters to step up | cricketnetwork.com

Smith calls for Aussie batters to step up

13 March 2018

Allrounder Mitchell Marsh's 96 is Australia's top score after two Tests, and the captain wants the top order to deliver

While the series scoreline is deadlocked at one-all, there is another contest the Proteas are winning two-nil halfway through the Qantas Tour of South Africa.

South Africa's batsmen have scored two centuries in the series to Australia's zero; 143 to rookie opener Aiden Markram in the first Test in Durban and then AB de Villiers' majestic unbeaten 126 in the second Test at St George's Park.

Australia have come close – Mitchell Marsh's 96 is the series high-score for the tourists, while Usman Khawaja made a hard-fought 75 on Sunday in Port Elizabeth.

But overall, no Australian is averaging 40 through two Tests and captain Steve Smith says hundreds are on the agenda for the remaining matches in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

"We haven't got a hundred so far in this series, so that's not ideal," Smith said after South Africa won the second Test on Monday.

"Mitchell Marsh probably deserved a hundred in the first Test to be fair, but if we're getting batters scoring big hundreds it certainly helps us out a hell of a lot.

"Unfortunately, we haven't been able to do that so far in this series, but we've got a good opportunity to turn it around in the next."

As Australia look to increase their output with the bat, they also need to find a way to stop the in-form de Villiers.

The 34-year-old is averaging 112.5 in the series and in four innings has only been dismissed once by a bowler – Nathan Lyon yesterday caught at bat-pad with victory just 20 runs away – and the other a mix-up with Markram in the first Test where he was run out for a golden duck.

But Smith says de Villier's dismissal to Lyon proved he is in fact mortal and that his bowlers need to be better when the living legend first arrives at the crease.

"He's just looked in complete control, hasn't he. In both Test Matches," Smith told SEN.

"(Second innings in PE) was the first time we have got him out conventionally.

One of the best hundreds I've seen: Smith

"But he's still human, so it is about getting the ball in the right areas enough to him, which I think we haven't done so far throughout this series.

"If we do that hopefully we can get his wicket nice and early and get the pressure on."

De Villier's hundred in Port Elizabeth was his 22nd Test ton but his first in three years, and Proteas captain Faf du Plessis knew his star middle-order batsman was primed for a big performance.

'I struggled to breathe and my legs went numb'

"I could see in his eyes that he had a huge hunger," du Plessis said.

"I said to him (on Sunday night), I'm just really pleased to see that he's walking the talk.

"All this stuff that he spoke about he's coming through with it.

"I'm really looking forward to see what he's going to do for the rest of the series.

"When he's in that sort of form, I'm very, very happy to have him in my side."

Qantas tour of South Africa

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.

Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights

First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard

Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage

About the Writer

 @samuelfez
@samuelfez

Sam Ferris is a Sydney-based journalist for cricket.com.au. He started in 2011 as a Big Bash League correspondent and continues to monitor the domestic scene and national sides closely.