Proteas bowler Morne' Morkel is known for his blinding pace. Photo: BackpagePix
Speed kills.

It has always been so, but sport serves up enough reminders to those who dare to forget that simple fact.

Yes, skill and style and all that jazz thrills. But, when it comes down to it, speed sends a shudder down the spine of those observing it, mesmerised by the sheer grace of it all.

If you’re a morning person, you may have noticed that Australia are making Joe Root and his Poms look rather ordinary in The Ashes. The whitewash is a very real prospect, so severe is the beating being administered by the Baggy Greens on the English.

It hurts to observe it - even as a neutral - because we all expected infinitely more from this showdown.

Our expectations were raised by the manner in which England disposed of the Proteas in the northern summer.

The same Proteas who strode Down Under and helped themselves to a third straight series triumph just over a year ago.

It’s maddeningly difficult to make sense of it all, but speed is at the root of it. On slower pitches which encourage the ball to seam, England are possibly the best in the world.

Possibly. Their batsmen play the ball later, and their bowlers pitch it up.

That works a treat in June and July in Birmingham and Manchester, but it has been an early Christmas buffet in Perth and Brisbane for the Aussies.

Steve Smith and now the Marsh brothers have feasted on half-volleys, while Mitchell Starc and ‘the muscle’ gave reduced game-changers like Moeen Ali into little pipsqueaks who bowl a bit of spin.

The Australian obsession is speed. Always has been. Bowl fast, score runs fast, and kill off a series - fast!

They didn’t take kindly to the Proteas doing precisely that to them last year, and one senses that they have privately earmarked their end of summer safari to these parts as their biggest agenda for the season.

They want to come here and win. Our nations may not joust for a precious urn, but bragging rights carry a unique street value themselves.

‘We did you, in your own backyard’ is not often said, so any chance to have that in the back pocket is special.

Groundsmen all over the country ought to be preparing the hardest, fastest surfaces they can muster.

Heck, they should have been instructed to do just that. It’s a common practice in elite cricket, after all.

The Proteas can try the hell for leather approach against India, who remain the most brittle ‘world number one’ travellers ever seen.

The likes of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan may look untouchable on Asian featherbeds, but they seldom fancy the chin music on the rock hard dance floors that we can produce.

The Proteas mustn’t even be subtle about it.

They have to unleash Messrs Rabada, Morkel, Steyn, Morris and Ngidi, and tell them all to let rip.

Virat Kohli may well relish the opportunity to display his greatness under such strife, as Root has tried to do Down Under.

But just as most English batters have melted in Australian heat, Kohli may well be surrounded by a woggle of wilters beneath the African sun.

Speed, in its pure, unadulterated form, always separates the men from the boys.

We are witnessing it in Australia and, before the summer is over, we might just see it again, a little closer to home.

Roll on 2018.

Merry Christmas, sports lovers.

Weekend Argus

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