You’d think we had slain vampires: “Ashes
memories turn to dust

trumpets the Smage; “Ghost busters clinch sweep” announces The Australian.

The symmetries are all there. Brett Lee and
Michael Kasprowicz were at the crease in Johannesburg last
night as Australia completed the first clean sweep of a South African side at home
since 1896. These were also the two men at the crease at Birmingham last
year when Australia lost the second Ashes Test by just two heart-breaking runs.

Test won, memory burned, let’s never speak
of this again. But wait a second: what were the same two
tail-enders doing saving Australia’s
bacon seven months after the Edgbaston disaster?

The fact is, Australia
is still suffering from a serious case of middle-order fade-out, with two names
prominent: Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist. Their lack of fire was only made
more obvious yesterday by the necessity to move Mike Hussey up the order to
cover for Justin Langer and the addition of some unaccustomed pressure.

Only last week Crikey questioned Symonds’s
ability to stand up under pressure, and he has failed in exactly that situation
in both innings of this Test, scoring 0 and 29 respectively. Roy’s average is
now just 19 after ten Tests. It wouldn’t be so bad if he were taking wickets,
but he took only one in this series at 45. An Australian bowler has never
looked so superfluous.

There is a long queue of replacements for Roy, headed by
Shane Watson, but the same can’t be said for superstar Adam Gilchrist. On his
day no-one can bat like Gilchrist, which is why his long slump (a duck
yesterday, an average which has dived from 55 to 48, no century for a year)
must have head-selector-to-be Talking Boonie quaking in his moustache.

Yes, it’s been a clean sweep, and will be
in Bangladesh too, but the Proteas weren’t the Poms and this wasn’t the Ashes. If
we keep relying on bowlers to save the day, there will only be more Ashes ghosts
to bust a year from now.

Peter Fray

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