Test series a flat-out pace war


In what will be a rough and tumble kind of series, it is the two sets of fast bowlers that has everyone salivating ahead of the first Test in Centurion… Stuart Hess runs the rule over South Africa’s and Australia’s frontline pace bowlers.


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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 15, Dale Steyn of South Africa sends down a delivery during day 2 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at Sahara Park Newlands on February 15, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa
Photo by Shaun Roy / Gallo ImagesSYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 03:  Mitchell Johnson of Australia bowls during day one of the Fifth Ashes Test match between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 3, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


STRENGTHS: Bowls straight, gets the ball to wobble about and causes all manner of havoc in the process. He’s not as quick as others in this series, but then they don’t have the same kind of control. The Indian series also showed that he was not just a new ball bowler – he produced some excellent spells in those Tests, stopping India from scoring and building pressure from which bowlers at the other end benefited.

WEAKNESS: Can be too predictable, and if there’s nothing in the surface he offers little threat once the ball gets soft. The Australians will look to attack him on those occasions, unlike the Indians who preferred the blocking option.

Say What: “I would have liked to see him bowl at Adelaide in that second Test (in 2012) when he apparently hurt his back – and was bowling in the nets three days later. On a flat wicket, who knows? But on a good wicket he’s very tough and will be challenging. We know that, we’ve seen the (number) of dismissals he gets.” – David Warner is somewhat sceptical of Philander’s success.

Stats: Tests – 20. Wickets – 105, Average – 18.00. Best Bowling (inns) – 6/44. Best Bowling (match) – 10/102


STRENGTHS: Coupled with good pace he makes life very uncomfortable for batsmen because of the awkward bounce he’s able to attain. The feeling remains that Morkel’s going to have a series where he’ll destroy an opposing batting line-up in the manner Mitchell Johnson did to England’s earlier this summer.

WEAKNESS: Consistency, which is probably why he hasn’t destroyed a batting line-up in the manner Johnson did England’s. Morkel bowls overs and spells in which his control disappears; his lines go haywire and the pressure on batsmen is released.

SAY WHAT: “It’s pretty scary to know you’ve got to lunge forward to someone like Morne because every time that ball could just hit you in the throat.” – Dale Steyn.

Stats: Tests – 53. Wickets – 183, Average – 29.91. Best Bowling (inns) – 6/23. Best Bowling (match) – 8/196

dale Steyn

STRENGTHS: Fast, swings it late, is aggressive, has a skiddy bouncer, keeps coming at you etc… Steyn has all the attributes of a great fast bowler and has a record to back up all the vein-throbbing, mouthing-off, nastiness that comes with the trade in the modern age. Equally capable of succeeding whether there is something in the pitch or on flat, low and slow surfaces as his record in India suggests.

WEAKNESS: India showed that the patient approach has merit. In Joburg and on the first day of the Durban Test, they left alone, counting on Steyn’s line not being straight enough or the ball swinging past the stumps. He corrected that on day two at Kingsmead and in India’s second innings though to finish the match with nine wickets. While his anger often drives him on, sometimes he tends to feel sorry for himself – the Wanderers Test against India being one recent example – and then it’s a distraction.

say what: “I watched him bowl in the IPL and in Test series and he’s an unbelievable bowler. I’m looking forward to going up against him. I’m not comparing myself to anyone. I saw his figures – 350 wickets in 69 Tests, that’s just ridiculous.” – Ryan Harris on Steyn.

Stats: Tests – 69.Wickets – 350, Average – 22.90. Best Bowling (inns) – 7/51. Best Bowling (match) – 11/60



STRENGTHS: His speed of course, close to 150km/h, with a nasty bouncer and an ability to swing the ball both ways. When the force is with him – as it was for the Ashes series Down Under – it makes for captivating viewing… though not for batsmen.

WEAKNESS: When he loses control, look out – especially if you happen to be standing in the slips. Though not as bad as during the 2009 Ashes, he remains susceptible to bowling the odd wild delivery or over. He may be confident after the Australian summer, but now the expectation to perform like that all the time will be upon him…how will he cope?

say what: “He never gave England a sniff. He was so tight, the channels he bowled was so tight. His pace through the air was the thing for me… softened them up, very good short balls, and then the follow-up balls were very quick through the air, the 150km/h which just blew England away. His overall control was the best I’ve seen for a long time.” – Allan Donald

Stats: Tests – 56. Wickets – 242, Average – 28.33. Best Bowling (inns) – 8/61. Best Bowling (match) – 11/159

peter siddle

STRENGTHS: The workhorse of the Australian attack. He’s praised a new diet and ‘new age’ fitness techniques for providing him with the stamina required to succeed at Test level. A controlled and disciplined technician, Siddle bowls straight and nips the ball either way to achieve success.

WEAKNESS: If there’s nothing in the pitch, can get predictable and good batsmen will see an opportunity to score. Because his natural line is straight and wicket-to-wicket, it opens up the leg-side, something the South Africans will try and exploit.

SAY WHAT: “Sids (Siddle) is in the top five in the world. You don’t get there by bowling rubbish.” – Crag McDermott (Australian bowling coach)

Stats: Tests – 51. Wickets – 183, Average – 28.86. Best Bowling (inns) – 6/54. Best Bowling (match) – 9/104

ryan harris

STRENGTHS: Control. Facing someone who bowls it all over the show is one thing, playing someone like Harris, who is just at you all the time is an enormous challenge. He’s a crafty operator, capable of using cutters, slower balls and if there’s any swing around, he’ll exploit that too.

WEAKNESS: His body. He’s put off knee surgery to enable him to play in this series. Against England Clarke could ‘protect’ him by bowling him in short spells – South Africa’s batsmen will be aware of that and will want to make him work. Coupled with the short turnaround between matches, Harris’s stamina will face close scrutiny over the next few weeks.

SAY WHAT: “Ryan drives himself as hard as he possibly can for personal excellence, but in pursuing that, it’s all done with a vision focused on whatever the team requires at any given moment. Whether he’s opening up with a new-ball spell, backing up late in the day for his 22nd over, or being part of a social function and trying to develop a sense of collective spirit, he’s very aware of what being a team member is about.” – Adam Gilchrist (2013)

Stats: Tests – 21. Wickets – 93, Average – 21.56. Best Bowling (inns) – 7/117. Best Bowling (match) – 9/106

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