The series between Australia and South Africa is being billed as the contest between the two best teams in Test cricket on present form, especially after the manner in which the Aussies mauled the English at home in the Ashes. But, even though South Africa are the number one team in Test cricket according to the official rankings, they did not look anywhere close to the same at Centurion. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they were mauled by a side that was far superior even though it was playing away from home.
Australia’s domination over the Proteas was complete in all aspects, but it was one man’s performance that stood out. And, that was Mitchell Johnson. The left-arm fast bowler from Australia, who is living a dream at present, proved once again what searing pace can do to the best of bowlers. Not only did he expose the technique of some accomplished South African Test stars like skipper Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, he also scarred them mentally by dealing some scary physical blows. Such was Johnson’s edge over the South Africans, it would be extremely difficult for them to recover from the setback.
Ever since the first Ashes Test in Australia, Johnson has been a different bowler. He has always had the pace, but has often failed to express himself in the past. What he has been doing well over the last few months is running in without inhibitions. Johnson’s confidence is sky-high at the moment, and it is visible in his bowling. He doesn’t mind taking on the best of the batsmen, and rarely comes second. This is in stark contrast to the Johnson of a year back, who couldn’t bowl six balls on a desired spot.
Without doubt, Johnson was the main difference between the teams, but the Aussies must thank a few other players as well for their impressive Centurion triumph. After being inserted into bat, the Aussies got off to a shaky start, but Shaun Marsh made a very mature hundred on comeback to put his team back in the game. The left-hander hasn’t done justice to his talent in the past, but at Centurion he demonstrated that he has it in him to succeed at the Test level. The fact that the knock came against the best in the world would further please the batsman.
Steven Smith’s hundred in the first innings was equally crucial. It was his massive partnership with Marsh that enabled the visitors to put up an impressive total. Smith had been a surprise choice for a spot in the Test middle order, but he has proved his worth beyond doubt. The performance of debutant Alex Doolan was another big plus. Not only did he compile a confident half-century in the second innings, but also picked up a couple of spectacular catches. David Warner’s brisk century only added to South Africa’s woes. In the end, it was all about Australia and their domination at Centurion.
--By A Cricket Analyst