Johannesburg – Fresh off a 5-0 thrashing of England in the Ashes in Australia, Australian captain Michael Clarke believes his bowling attack is the best in Test cricket.
“I'm a little bit biased, but in my opinion this Australian attack is the best in the world,” Clarke said in Potchefstroom on Friday, where his team is preparing to play a four-day warm-up match against a South African Invitation XI, starting on Sunday.
“ What I've seen from the Australian fast bowlers over a long period of time, I feel we have the best attack in the world.”
Clarke said much of the success of South African bowlers was down to playing at home in favourable conditions.
The Australian squad arrived in South Africa on Wednesday, ahead of their three-match Test series against the Proteas starting in Centurion on February 12.
As both bowling units were strong, it meant the batsmen would face a tough challenge in the series.
“I think it's going to be a tough tour for the batters,” Clarke said.
“You have two very good bowling attacks. I don't know what the wickets are going to be like, but generally there is a bit in the wickets in South Africa.”
While Clarke said he was not concerned who the favourites were for the clash, he was content with giving that label to the Proteas.
“Being in South Africa's backyard, I would imagine they will be favourites but that doesn't bother us.”
He said it would be crucial for the Australians to carry the momentum from the Ashes series.
“We just need to continue to play the way we played through the Australian summer.
“We need to make sure we're scoring enough runs. We're up against a very good bowling attack. Our bowlers need to keep executing to take 20 wickets in a Test match.”
Clarke, however, was quietly confident his charges would get the job done.
“It's about getting used to the conditions, but if we can play a similar brand of cricket to what we played in Australia, then I think we can have some success over here.”
The Australian captain said it would be interesting to see how South Africa managed the void left following Jacques Kallis's retirement from Test cricket.
“Jacques was a magnificent player, and no team would ever be able to replace him. It presents opportunities for some other guys to play for South Africa in the Test team,” he said.
“The South African batting line-up is extremely strong even without Jacques being in there, but Jacques would still be a big loss for any team.”
As for the controversial topic of sledging, Clarke said there was no plan in place for such tactics by the Australians.
“It's never been part of our plan. It's just been the way the games turn out,” he said.
“When you're on the field – no matter who you're playing against Ä it's a tough challenge. We understand there's a line there that you can't cross, and we won't.”
Clarke said the personal relationships between the Australians and the South Africans had always been good, and he did not expect that to change in the upcoming series.
“I know Graeme (Smith) quite well and a lot of the South African players. There's a lot of mutual respect for both teams. You'll see some hard-fought cricket, but both teams get on very well off the field,” he said.
“You'll see both teams get together after the game for a few quiet beers.” – Sapa