Can Australia bat?

We’ll find out tomorrow; South Africa were bowled out for 266 today, rather sensationally after being 241-4 at one stage. Australia did reasonably well, but South Africa were a bit brainless at the end. (A cruel person might make choking sounds here.) Australia will be a bit disturbed though that in an innings of only 71 overs they used seven bowlers. (Well, I say ‘bowlers’ but Hussey had four overs.) Clarke was one of them and he took 2-6 at the end of the innings. Part of this was because Watson pulled up in his fourth over, but that won’t make Australia feel much better. Also problematic is that Johnson and Cummins only took one wicket apiece. Siddle, who might have missed out if Harris had been fit, took three and their current spinner, Nathan Lyon, took two.

Still, this does give Australia a good chance to level the series, if they can bat well this time. It’s a big ‘if’ though. Watson is out of form, and carrying a knack now, Hughes hasn’t been in form for a few years, Ponting hasn’t had a big score in some time and may be playing in his last test, Khawaja has only played three tests and hasn’t amazed anyone, Hussey is back to his pre-Ashes form and Haddin clearly doesn’t have the nous to bat in a pressure situation. That just leaves Michael Clarke as the only batsman in the top seven in which Australia can be even remotely confident. He was up to the task in the first innings of the first Test, but failed along with the rest of them in the second innings. Australia cannot rely on him scoring two hundred again, so they will need a few of the other batsmen to step up. There’s really no-one who stands out as being that batsman, however. We’ll see tomorrow if one of them can, but right now 266 looks like it might be enough for a first innings lead.

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