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Friday, April 18, 2014  

S. Africa defend status in Australia series
SYDNEY The number one Test ranking has proved notoriously hard to hang onto over the last couple of years but South Africa could take a firm grip on it if they can triumph in a mouth-watering series in Australia over the next month.

Australia were the last side to enjoy prolonged dominance of the longer form of the game and they could even wrestle back the number one spot with a convincing victory over the three-Test encounter that starts in Brisbane on Friday.

To do so, however, their batsmen will need to see off Dale Steyn and the most-feared pace attack in world cricket, while their bowling unit will have to consistently make inroads into a long and solid South African batting order.

The South Africans were triumphant in a Test series for the first time on Australian soil on their last visit in 2008/9 but it is last year’s enthralling two-match series in South Africa that resonate more with the players.

The series was split 1-1, but only after Australia had managed to battle back after a brutal mauling from the South African pace attack had them bowled out for 47 in their second innings in the first test in Cape Town.

“It was like the first two rounds of a heavyweight boxing match, the guys had just found their feet and the Aussies were on their way home,” Steyn, the top-ranked bowler in the world, said last week.

This time they will go three rounds with Tests at the Adelaide Oval (November 22-26) and the WACA in Perth (November 30-December 4) coming after this week’s opener at the Gabba.

Australia have not lost at the Gabba for 24 years but if the wicket proves to have as much bounce as the groundsman has predicted, Steyn and his cohorts Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander should prove hard to handle.

Reuters
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