The first test between South Africa and Australia played in Durban finished yesterday with a sensational Australian win. This series was billed as a showdown with the two best test teams in the world (settle down India). By bowling strength I figured Australia were slightly ahead, but I also had question marks. We flogged the Poms over the summer, but England were so poor it was hard to draw a line. The Australian team that knocked over the Saffies was the Australian team I remember – relentless, clinical, ruthless. They picked apart South Africa with immense pressure, and some brilliant cricket.
I sometimes think that the edge Australia has is it’s mentality. There have been some champion cricketers, and Starc in this test match was devastating, but it’s complemented by a mindset that never gives a sucker and even break, and never takes a backward step. It intimidates opposition and makes them work harder than they want to. A lot of them fail trying.
Unfortunately the spillover from this is often controversial, and this match was a classic example of that.
I don’t mind playing hard. I don’t mind giving a bit of lip. I don’t mind crowding the opposition and letting them know we’re coming for them. I don’t mind slipping the knife in or sinking the slipper. I believe in being ruthless: it’s called ‘test’ cricket for a reason.
In my mind there are limits to that. For a start, don’t get personal. That can be a grey line, but in my mind that means you don’t go the other persons personal life. Keep it on the field. That’s the other part of it – go hard on the field, take it easy off it. That appears to be a peculiarly Australian convention, and seems to confuse other cultures – how can you be going hammer and tongs at on me on the field, then buying me a beer off it? Because it’s not personal. It’s business, and the business is winning a game of sport.
There were a couple of things in this match that left me feeling ill at ease.
I’m not a big fan of Nathan Lyon. His bowling has improved out of sight the last couple of years with confidence, and by bowling a more attacking line. I think he’s a classless dick though. On the weekend AB de Villiers was run out for a duck, which was big news in the context of the match. Once the job is done I’m not a big one for send-offs, though I understand how emotions can carry you away. I think it’s cheap. Lyon didn’t give AB a send-off, but basically he dropped the ball on him as if to say, gotcha. Not a good look, and rightly sanctioned.
More complex is the kerfuffle between Warner and de Kock. We all know that Warner goes hard. I reckon he’s one of those guys who gets white line fever. He’s said and done some stupid things, but I suspect he’s not a bad bloke really, and he was excellent captaining the Australian to a T20 clean sweep recently.
This time he gave some lip, pretty much as normal I imagine. On this occasion though de Kock has seemingly responded with something about Warner’s wife, and he went ballistic. It continued off the field and Warner had to be restrained from taking on de Kock. Not a good look.
For a start I’m very disappointed Warner responded as he did because it shows he can be got to. There’s a bit of if you dish it out you have to take it too – though Warner would point out that de Kock went beyond the pale by getting personal. That’s what outraged him most I think, that de Kock wouldn’t play by the rules. Problem with that is you can’t expect everyone to play by the rules that you’ve made up. It may be Australian convention that personal attacks are a no-no, but it’s hardly universal, and certainly confusing to those who think the whole idea of rules about this as arbitrary.
I understand why Warner responded as he did, but can’t condone it. De Kock was clinical in taking that approach, and got full reward for it. Warner should have walked away. At the very least he could have pointed to the scoreboard.
End of the day as an Aussie I don’t like it. Go hard, but keep it classy.