Cricket’s Antipodean rock stars marched through OR Tambo upon their arrival in the country yesterday, with rock legend Bruce Springsteen’s hit Dancing in the Dark as an accompaniment – their arrival here, a low-key affair compared to what will happen when Springsteen jets into Johannesburg later this week.
Springsteen is the big show in town this week, Michael Clarke and his Australian team, so feted at home recently following their thrashing of England in the Ashes, only become the star attractions in a fortnight when the first Test is played in Centurion.
There was a mere smattering of folks on hand to welcome them – a far cry from years past when an Australian touring team would be greeted by hundreds of autograph hunters.
The Australians certainly didn’t seem to mind, passing through under the radar. The players headed for the bus and made their way to Potchefstroom yesterday evening, where they’ll begin preparations for the tour with a four-day match against an Invitation XI from next Wednesday.
Skipper Michael Clarke cut a relaxed figure as he posed for a few photographs, but he made everyone aware before the team left Sydney yesterday morning that the challenge they face against the No1 Test team in the world is a significant one. “A lot of teams are having success in their own backyard, so our greatest challenge is to have success away from home and that is what we face right now,” said Clarke.
In recent years, Test series between South Africa and Australia have been pulsating and bruising affairs. South Africa have won twice Down Under in 2008/09 and 2012/13, but, despite their recent dominance of the Test format, there is one thing they haven’t achieved – a Test series win over Australia on South African soil in the post-isolation era.
The Australians are the last side to have defeated South Africa in a series, winning 2-1 here in the follow-up tour in 2008/09, something of a surprise given the youthful look of that team.
Clarke said the many similarities between the two countries – from the weather, to the nature of the pitches and the outfields at South African grounds – made his side feel comfortable when they came here. The last time Australia were here, the two teams split a mini-series of two matches one each, with Clarke describing the narrow two-wicket win in the second Test at the Wanderers as “one of the greatest wins” of his career.
That victory followed on from the humiliating and more oft-spoken triumph for South Africa at Newlands, where Clarke’s side were bowled out for 47 in the second innings. Though obviously not wanting to go through something similar again, the Australian captain said it was entirely possible that there could be low scores in the upcoming series.
“If the wickets for this tour are conducive to fast bowling, then with two very good attacks, you will see some low scores. It will be an extremely tough challenge for both batting units if the wickets are conducive to sideways movement.” - The Star