August 24, 2010

South Africa, not Australia, have best bowling attack


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I came across an interesting discussion, featuring three former Test cricketers, in which the present day bowling attacks in world cricket was the subject.

The trio of Ian Chappell, Allan Donald and Sanjay Manjrekar shared their views and it was unsurprising to find them more or less on the same wavelength. But I have my reservations about their assessment.

They have rated South Africa and Australia as the best bowling attacks followed by that of Pakistan and England while pushing India and Sri Lanka to the bottom.

Manjrekar, for a moment, looked off-target if not totally out of mind in his observations. "When you look at bowling attacks from around the world Australia will still perhaps be No.1, because you can imagine that attack being pretty good on Indian conditions, in Sri Lanka as well," he was quoted as saying.

"Getting everything in the air, trying to beat batsmen in pace and not using the surface at all by bowling the ball full-that's where Australia are good. They have got Mitchell Johnson who uses the length well. Doug Bollinger is also quite happy pitching the ball up. Australia and South Africa to me are the attacks that can perhaps make an impression in all sorts of conditions," Manjrekar, whose own career was cut short because of adopting some strange tactics, contended.

I wish Manjrekar had watched the performance of the Australian fast bowlers, whom he has showered with so much praise, during the two-Test series against Pakistan earlier this summer. In their present form neither Johnson nor Bollinger deserved to be any frontline Test team.

Yes South Africa possess the standout pace attack that can demolish any batting line-up with brutal force. They are the only team in the world having both the new ball operators, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, genuinely quick.

South Africa are fortunate to be blessed with genuine fast bowlers in their ranks whose aggression tests the best of batters in the business. They have a formidable support cast as well with Jacques Kallis being a more than decent fifth bowler.

Australia have had the most lethal bowling in the world until Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were around. After their departure they have tried different bowlers but neither of them has been consistent enough for a long period. Their domestic structure has kept throwing talented youngsters but they have a lot to prove at the international level.

I fully agree with Donald that England, with a strong pace attack and a successful spinner in Graeme Swann, remained formidable in home conditions only and they would indeed be tested in Australia later in the year.

"It will be very interesting for them to go to Australia during the Ashes and bowl on those flat pitches. With the new ball, they are pretty good. James Anderson is the bowler for me who really stands out in that regard. Stuart Broad is pretty much a line bowler, he's quite aggressive. But in conditions with the Kookaburra ball, they are going to need something off the deck as well. So they are going to be tested during the Ashes," Donald reckoned.

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