Even the most ardent supporter of South
African cricket will have trouble finding many positives in their just-finished
tour of Australia.

Two-nil in the Test series, but it could
have been one-nil had Graeme Smith not handed Australia
the final Test with an overly generous declaration.

And yesterday Sri Lanka,
ranked number seven in the world, knocked them off for a place in the one day
finals. As a result of their poor one day series, South Africa has dropped
from second to third place in the world rankings. From yesterday, Pakistan
are the second best one day team in the world, which will hurt. Before the VB
Series, South Africa won 21 one dayers in a row.

At least Graeme Smith, the 24-year-old
captain who has been charged (implicitly at least) with restoring
honour to
South African cricket, finally reached fifty after three months in
Australia. The stats to support that claim are damning. In six test
innings Smith scored only 155 runs. In eight one-day innings, he scored
166
runs, 67 of them yesterday.

So, if the Australians are expecting to
get a hard time when they land in South Africa in a couple of weeks time, they
should be able to turn to Smith for some advice on how to handle it – he’s
already copping it.

“Super-fast
Aussie Brett Lee must be wondering at this stage what he has to bowl not to get
Smith’s wicket,” wrote the sports editor in Business Day.
“With Ashwell Prince now cleverly being named vice-captain, perhaps it is time
to rest Smith and give the reins to the Cape batsman.”

Former Australian and
South African Test cricketer Kepler Wessels says he’d give both Smith and South Africa’s coach Mickey Arthur another chance. But it’s
a stay-of-execution that depends on how they perform during the return series.

The upshot of all this? Australia
will land in South
Africa later this
month all too aware that their opponents are only a couple of bad days’ cricket
away from a serious meltdown. That’s a very comforting thought for cricket’s
best front-runners.

Peter Fray

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