Beating Aussies is SA~~s last frontier
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Kingston (Jamaica): There is one remaining challenge for Shaun Pollock's South African cricket team - to beat world champions Australia in a Test series. The opportunity will come in December this year when South Africa play three Tests in Australia, with the Australians making a reciprocal tour of South Africa, also with three Tests, in February and March 2002. By then there will be an official world championship at stake - the first time such a crown has been up for grabs in cricket history. A 2-1 victory in a five-Test series in the West Indies, which ended on Monday strengthened South Africa's position as the only realistic challengers to Australia. The International Cricket Council (ICC) agreed at a meeting in Melbourne, Australia, in February to sanction an official world championship, based on a format devised by the English magazine, Wisden Cricket Monthly. The details have still to be worked out by the ICC, but Wisden's latest unofficial log has Australia on top with 25 points from 15 series, based on two points for a win and one for a shared series. South Africa has 24 points from 16 series. The numbers of series varies because Australia is yet to play against Zimbabwe in Australia. Neither side has had a series against Bangladesh. Some of the points may be deducted when the official championship is launched, because the ICC may insist that only series of two or more matches will count. South Africa's home and away wins against Zimbabwe were both in one-off Tests, while Australia's away victory against the same opponents was also in a single game. The log will be a revolving one, with results from the most recent contests between teams replacing those from previous encounters. Australia beat South Africa at home and away between 1996-97 and 1997-98 so will be defending four points in the upcoming matches. It will mean that victory for South Africa will earn it the championship. Pollock is wary about looking too far ahead, or comparing his team against other sides. "We take one series at a time and concentrate on our own performances," he said. Before going to Australia, South Africa has two Tests in Zimbabwe in September followed by a three-Test home series against India. But all-rounder Jacques Kallis spoke for several of his teammates when he said in an interview in the South African 'Sunday Times' last weekend that his ambition was to be in a winning side against Australia. Kallis said he felt South Africa were ready for the challenge. "We have a young side, which is fantastic when you look at a few teams around the world, especially the Australians, who have got quite a few old guys." Meanwhile both teams had something to celebrate after the West Indies won the final Test against South Africa by 130 runs at Sabina Park Monday. Pollock admitted that his team might have allowed some complacency to slip in after clinching the series in the fourth Test. He said this could have contributed to what proved a critical first innings collapse to 141 all out. But Pollock was delighted with the way his team had adapted to West Indian conditions. "We played in conditions which didn't suit us and I was very happy with the way we fought our way through, with all the players making a contribution at different times." No man of the series was named after the Tests because there is a single award covering both the Tests and a seven-match One-day International series, which starts in Kingston Saturday. It was important to win the last Test because we were up against a very good side," West Indies captain Carl Hooper said. Coach Roger Harper said the win was a crucial step in the development of the young players in the team. "We talk a lot about what is needed to win a Test match but now these young men have the physical experience of doing it."