Proteas simply no match for Cummins and Australia

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Australia’s captain Pat Cummins signals for an umpire’s review on the fourth day of the second cricket Test match between Australia and South Africa at the MCG in Melbourne on December 29, 2022. Photo by William WEST /AFP via Getty Images

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The scene was set for the goliaths of the game to put on a show for the ages.

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But one of them failed to show up and it has been a one-way parade to the gallows. South Africa arrived on the Australian shores set to slay the Aussies. After all the Proteas did have a glorious winning streak Down Under and the local fans were all pumped up because this matchup fielded the two fastest bowling units in the game that had struck fear in the hearts of all the other Test nations.

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Then, of course, this was the first series between the two following that embarrassing incident in South Africa in 2018 that made the Aussies the laughing stock of the world. The Australians were caught red-handed trying to tamper with the shape of the ball with sandpaper. The sandpaper-gate cheating scandal was front page news and led to then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull issuing an apology.

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The three players involved were Cameron Bancroft and current players Steve Smith and David Warner and their audacity defied logic as there are cameras posted all over the Newlands in Cape Town. The three served time and both Warner and Smith are back on the national squad. This time they are terrorizing the world legally – with their bats.

The Proteas would have been better off staying home than making a mockery of this visit that had so much promise. The heavy defeat in Melbourne followed a two-day thrashing in Brisbane with the Proteas finishing the two matches with the woeful scores of 152, 99, 189 and 204. In the Boxing Day match in Melbourne Warner compiled a brilliant 200, Smith weighed in with 85 and wicket-keeper Alex Carey hoisted 111 as the home team made 575 for eight and strolled to an innings and 182-run pasting.

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The vaunted South African attack of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Marco Jansen was taken to the cleaners. The Aussie speedsters Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Scott Boland and Cameron Green bowled with ferocity with Green claiming five wickets for 27 in the first innings. But Starc and Green were injured in this victory and will miss the third Test that starts on Wednesday.

So, what happened to this fanfare? South Africa was exposed as a team with no batting power. One has to also take issue with captain Dean Elgar. He has the fastest bowler in his lineup but instead of handing Nortje the new ball he brings him in at No. 4. Does this make any sense?  Also employing superb spinner Keshav Maharaj for purposes of containment instead of going for wickets has been another glaring fault.

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Fans have lost interest in this series even before the first ball is bowled in Sydney on Wednesday and the focus has already shifted to the Ashes series between auld enemies England and Australia in England. It will be an enticing duel between Cummins and his England counterpart Ben Stokes who has rocked the cricketing world with his aggressive style of play. Cummins has lost just once after being handed the captaincy a year ago while Stokes has yet to taste defeat.

In his first assignment as white-ball captain Cummins blanked England 3-0 in the recent ODI series and the team is now gelling beautifully. The same can be said about England’s fortunes since Stokes took charge. He has come through in situations of do and die and amazingly finished on top each time. In fact, the England media has already ordained him as one of the country’s greatest captains but many believe he is the greatest. We will find out in the summer when Stokes goes head-on with Cummins. It should be a dandy.

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PANT ON THE MEND

India’s wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant is on the mend after a horrifying car crash on Friday that saw his car totalled. Pant was on his way home from Delhi to see his mother when he reportedly hit a traffic divider and the car was engulfed in flames. The 25-year-old is out of the ICU, but the extent of injuries on his knee, toe and ankle hasn’t been disclosed as he is still in no shape to go through MRI scans. Meanwhile India pulled off an exciting two-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first Twenty20 match in Mumbai on Tuesday. India, playing under Hardik Pandya, posted 162 for five with Deepak Hooda (41) and Axar Patel (31) the top scorers. Pace bowler Shivam Mavi had a dream debut with four wickets and his fellow new ball bowler Umran Malik took three to cause the damage. Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka led the visitors with 45 off 27 balls.

PAKISTAN FIGHTS BACK

Imam-ul-Haq hit an unbeaten 74 to help Pakistan to 154 for three in reply to visiting New Zealand’s 449 on the second day of the second Test in Karachi on Tuesday. New Zealand openers Tom Latham (71) and Devon Conway (122) put on 134 for the first wicket and fast bowler Matt Henry coming in at No. 10 smashed an unbeaten 68 to lead the Kiwis.

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