Proteas strike fear in the Kangaroo heart
By Trevine Rodrigo in Melbourne
The Australian capitulation to South Africa has set alarm bells ringing down under, and this being Christmas time, those bells are pealing a loud and clear message of joy to the world as a change of the guard in world cricket becomes increasingly imminent.

South Africa, who have made many forays here with hopes of taking home glad tidings in the past, have much like Sri Lanka, rated second in the world last year, returned home a broken and humbled outfit.
Many believe that the South Africans when they were at their best in the past, tried too hard and that was mainly attributed to their continued failures. But the current squad which is a fine blend of youth and experience are battle hardened and unlike their predecessors, are cool and calculating under pressure knowing fully well that the task ahead although daunting, is not insurmountable.
Duminy made a successful debut in the first Test.

The loss has given the Aussies a harsh reality check after their pre-Test jibes at the tourists about their poor previous record down under. It only helped spur the young Proteas into action rising to the challenge to silence their detractors. And silence them they did with a memorable fourth innings run chase of 414 which is the second highest in the history of Tests. Just for the record, South Africa also chased down the highest one-day score at one point against the Aussies in South Africa 434, to win a thriller. That too has now been relegated to the second highest score after Sri Lanka pounded a hapless Holland attack to re-establish their highest one day total.

And all around Australia there has been raging controversy as finger pointing and in many ways unfounded criticism of Skipper Ricky Ponting continues to dominate the media and post mortems among cricket mad Australian fans. The loss has shaken the very foundations of Australian cricket as many watched in disbelief as the young South African battlers A.B. De Villiers and Jean Paul Duminy nonchalantly knocked off the required target with no visible sign of pressure on their young shoulders.
The media frustration here even went into scanning international response to Australia’s defeat and came up with a laughable view that the world is celebrating the demise of Australian dominance.

Sour grapes say many purists who have acknowledged that the Aussies have deserved the accolades over a decade and a half of control of world cricket but are now choking on the bitter pill of accepting that all good things must come to an end.

In Ponting’s defence it must be said that he is attempting to emulate his own, and his predecessors’ achievements with limited stocks at his disposal. It is no easy task to fill in the voids left by the departures of legends such as Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and the Waughs.

And Ponting, oblivious to this fact due to his luck in inheriting a world beating outfit when he took over the reins, is learning that he does not possess the quality of years gone by. Australia is never short of talent if a proper look in the right direction is made.

While Ponting and the game’s administrators are floundering after the shock loss, the South Africans are heaving a sigh of relief that they have finally been able to shake the monkey of their backs. South African skipper Graeme Smith who led his team by example despite having to bat with an injured elbow scoring a ton under duress, was pleased at the outcome and chose to reserve any comment on the euphoria within his squad after a fascinating Test that see-sawed throughout the five days.

Ponting on the other hand chose a knee-jerk reaction turning viciously on frontline speedster Brett Lee whom he claimed let the bowling down by his lack of penetration with the new ball. He even questioned his place in the team and strongly hinted that the paceman will be dropped for the second Test in Melbourne on Boxing Day.

It was totally uncalled for as Lee who has been Australia’s main strike weapon over the last few years, had a bad Test and that will happen to even the best.

Furthermore, Ponting was overly critical of the Curator who prepared the WACA track which he claimed did not favour the Aussies. This could b a serious distortion of his facts because Mitchell Johnson grabbed 11 South African scalps in a masterful display of fast bowling very much in keeping of the fast and bouncy wicket expected in Perth. It was in fact the Australian batting, Ponting included that put them under pressure as the South Africans capitalized on the wicket better than the home team.

Whether Ponting was letting his frustration cloud his judgement will be known after the Melbourne Test. But what is most evident is that the Aussies are for the first time in many years, rattled at home and fans here are awakening to the reality that the future will not be the ho hum they have got used to as teams arrived and left beaten, in the past summers.

Australia must now be prepared to join those countries that have suffered heartbreak of striving to get to the top but kept stumbling on the step of the summit over the years.

After all it was they, who after suffering numerous setbacks during the two decades or so West Indian dominance, finally found the formula under Allan Border to dethrone the men from the Caribbean.
History is about to repeat itself.
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