It seems that the sledging skirmishes between Australia and South Africa are not going to go away anytime soon as Australia captain Steven Smith said on the eve of the second Test in Port Elizabeth that his team will not be changing their approach on the field.
That is despite their constant verbal barrage leading to tempers being frayed on the penultimate day of the fist Test in Durban, culminating in vice-captain David Warner being fined 75% of his match fee and given three demerit points – four being the threshold for a suspension – following his fracas with Quinton de Kock.
“As the Australian team, we play our best when we’re playing good, hard cricket and trying to get into a battle on the field. So whatever gets you motivated as a player, even if it’s banter, go for it. I don’t think we did a great deal wrong, it was all fine in Durban,” Smith said.
“It’s now just about playing the game and enjoying it. David plays very well when he’s aggressive and getting into a contest. Obviously he needs to be very careful now about not crossing the line because he has no more chances in terms of risking a suspension. Hopefully we can ensure everyone plays within the spirit of the game.”
His counterpart, Faf du Plessis, isn’t expecting the verbals to be toned down.
“I don’t expect Australia to change their style of play, they’ve always done it and for two or three players it’s almost like their job. But if guys are going to push the line then it’s up to the captain to make sure they keep calm and we don’t end up like we did in Durban, otherwise the umpires have to step in,” Du Plessis said.
While Smith confirmed Australia would also not be making any changes to their starting XI, South Africa, as the losers of the first Test, do require a bit more thought about their selection.
But with Temba Bavuma still not quite able to hit the ball with full power yet, the composition of their bowling attack and how best to take 20 wickets is probably their only talking point.
“We’re still talking about a few combinations, I’m not sure we will make a change, but if we do then it will just be one change. It comes down to Temba Bavuma or Theunis de Bruyn, but Temba is coming off a long injury layoff and hasn’t played for a long time, and what bowling combination is best because we need to take 20 wickets,” Du Plessis said.
“It looks a typical PE pitch, a touch slow, with a bit of grass, so that makes the new ball important. Later on there will probably be a touch of spin and reverse-swing normally plays a role, but that depends on the overhead conditions. Generally if it’s cloudy and wet it’s tricky to get the ball to reverse, but if the dry wind blows across the field then there’s a real opportunity for some reverse.”