The second Test between South Africa and Australia is all set to get underway on Friday at Port Elizabeth. The tourists hold a 1-0 lead in the four-match series after a 118-run win in the opening Test at Durban.
After the opening Test in which a lot of drama occurred, the tensions will be heightened when both sides meet at Port Elizabeth.
Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of the clash.
WARNER-DE KOCK FIASCO DOMINATES SHOWDOWN
The Aussie has accepted the match-referee’s Level 2 charge against him for bringing the game into disrepute and finally broke his silence on the matter when he called the South African’s remarks ‘vile and disgusting’.
In comparison, the Proteas wicketkeeper contested the Level 1 charges against him though he failed to escape a fine following the hearing. Expect the atmosphere in the second Test to be edgy after plenty of blame games from both camps after the ugly spat.
CAN PROTEAS STOP AUSTRALIA’S FAB FOUR?
Australia’s bowling attack lived up to its fearsome reputation in Durban, bundling out the hosts cheaply in the first innings to pave the path for victory.
The Durban Test was the fifth time the four bowlers had played together in the Australian whites. They have remarkably won all five of them. With the same bowling attack expected to turn up at Port Elizabeth, there seems to be no respite in sight for the hosts who will need to massively up their game.
TIME TO UNLEASH THE RABADA?
While Australia’s pace attack is one to be feared, South Africa’s isn’t too shabby either with young Kagiso Rabada leading the line. Dale Steyn inferred that Rabada was bowling like a caged animal in the first Test after copping fines and demerit points for his aggressiveness in earlier matches.
Like Virat Kohli, the youngster thrives in the heat of battle and likes to get stuck into the opposition to bring out the best in him.
After all the drama in the opening Test, Rabada will be itching to have a go at the Australian batsmen, especially Warner, who can expect a barrage of verbal volleys aimed at him from all quarters. An unleashed Rabada might just be the tonic South Africa needs for now.
HOSTS NEED TAIL TO SING
While South Africa’s top-order failed miserably in the first innings at Durban, much of their undoing came due to the measly contributions of their tail.
They lost their last five wickets for 12 runs in first innings. They fared marginally better in the second, scoring 15 runs as Mitchell ‘ender of tails’ Starc made merry.
If Faf du Plessis’ men need to mount a comeback in the series, they will definitely need a bit more from their tail-enders.
Having had many a great battles with Sachin during his playing days, the Aussie’s authority on the subject is not in question.
Speaking to the Hindu in Chennai, the Australia great talked about the India skipper in length, including strategies about where to bowl to him. “If he (Kohli) continues to bat the way he is doing now, he could well go past Sachin’s records,” McGrath said.
“I don’t like to compare eras. Every era makes it own demands and the pitches, generally, are better for batting these days. Sachin, on his day, could decimate attacks. Kohli is a very attacking batsman too,” he added.
With 56 international tons to his name, Kohli is 44 behind Sachin’s record of 100 centuries. He is well placed to overhaul the legendary batsman’s of 49 ODI centuries having already become the second-highest ton-maker in the format with 35 of his own.
When speaking about how he would contain the 29-year-old batting sensation, McGrath had some theories of his own.
“Kohli is a quality batsman, a confidence player, and as a bowler, I will cut off his scoring areas and build pressure. He is good through the off-side, I would block him there. He is good off his legs too and again I would deny him runs in that area,” he explained.
“Kohli is solid technically, has an aggressive attitude, goes about his cricket with passion and I would like to play on his mind, prevent him from scoring freely.
“And I would bowl an in-between length at Kohli, neither too full nor too short and cramp him for room.
“There are other tactics too, McGrath says, that could work against Kohli. “For instance, you could have an aggressive field and bowl a defensive line. There are areas to score but the ball is not there to be hit. It forces mistakes.”
Considered to be amongst the finest of pacers to grace international cricket, McGrath played 124 Tests for Australia, picking up 563 wickets. He is the all-time leading wicket-taker amongst pacers in the format.
Australia vice-captain David Warner says he will always stick up for his family after claiming a “vile and disgusting” remark about his wife by South Africa‘s Quinton de Kock led to their ugly altercation.
Both players were punished Wednesday for the bust-up during the opening Test in Durban, with Warner fined 75 percent of his match fee and De Kock 25 percent.
They are free to play the second Test starting Friday, although Warner was also given three demerit points, meaning he will be banned if he gets one more within the next year.
Warner admitted he let his emotions take over after confronting the Proteas wicketkeeper/batsman as the players walked up a narrow staircase to the dressing rooms during the tea interval on Sunday.
Footage was captured on CCTV and leaked, showing the Australian being restrained by his team-mates.
Warner said he was used to taking flak from fans and opposition players, but claimed De Kock’s remark crossed a line.
“The other day I was probably out of line. I’ve seen the footage and I regret the way it played out but for me – it is how I am and I responded emotionally and regretted the way I played out,” he told Australian media in South Africa.
“But I’ll always stick up for my family.
“I cop it left, right and centre, especially off the field from spectators. I am used to that and it doesn’t bother me.
“But in the proximity of my personal space and behind me, a comment that was vile and disgusting and about my wife and just in general about a lady was quite poor, I felt.”
He added: “When it comes to family or racism comments or anything like that, that’s just a no-go zone.”
New footage shows the pair walking from the ground together and Warner is heard to call De Kock a “fucking sook”, according to The Australian newspaper.
He apparently responded by making disparaging remarks about Warner’s wife, which escalated the row as they walked to the dressing rooms.
South African coach Ottis Gibson has defended De Kock against allegations he provoked the altercation.
The pair are yet to speak since the incident and Warner said he hoped to break the ice at some point in the future.
“Hopefully I can speak to him in the next couple of days, or after the game, or after the series,” the opener said.