Siddle decision backfires for Aussies

OPINION

The series against South Africa has resembled a football match where one team enjoys all the territory and the other scores the winning goal on the counter at the death.

Really, this has been a head-shaking turnaround - not the least with the absence of Australia's venomous work horse in Adelaide, Peter Siddle.

The old adage of not changing a winning team obviously bypassed the Cricket Australia hierarchy.

Despite the two draws, Australia had massive moral victories in the opening exchanges, and the Proteas were wounded and beaten.

All that was missing was the knockout punch. That Siddle went beyond pain to nearly deliver that punch should have ensured his selection in Perth.

His performance demanded it and Siddle said he was ready. Unfortunately, the call wasn't heeded. Remember there was no Shane Watson protection and they were down a bowler. Siddle deserved the chance for shorter spell in friendlier Perth conditions.

Sure, the 'replacement attack' did well in the first innings in Perth, and Mitchell Johnson has shown some worthy signs. But when it came to the acid test, in the Proteas second innings, there were too many loose balls and not enough imagination from the Australian attack.

South Africa won these mental exchanges and comprehensively the second day's play to take a stranglehold on the Test. Matthew Wade's confidence in talking up Australia's hopes after the series- deciding day smacked of PR 101.

Even the most ardent admirer of Australia's batting wouldn't have gone close to having a bet on the outcome other than a South African victory.

Again, one has to admire Hashim Amla. Remember, this was the target for Australia's sledging in the pre-series dossier. Then they backed up the dossier with some shabby bullying on the field. Who has had the last laugh? On day two in Perth, continuing into yesterday, Amla was supreme, taking the game away from the home team with his belligerent approach. Talk about seizing the moment. And the dour Graeme Smith showed his hand.

One dominant day triggers the likely series victory for the Proteas and Australia's overconfidence from the opening exchanges is lost. Mind you, these words have been tapped just a smidgen into day three, but the damage had been done.

The plaudits for the Ponting career have been many and worthy. There might have been some optimism in this space last week in Ponting's favour, but he made the call and dreams of the Ashes redemption were gone.

That was the starkest part of the Ponting farewell . . . when quizzed about how disappointed he would be not to go back for another tilt against England, Ponting said it didn't bother him, he "wasn't good enough".

To make this honest admission, was as brave as it was surprising. It was surprising to see all the confidence, the bravado, the absolute belief, vanish with that one Jacques Kallis delivery in Adelaide where the long-serving maestro was made to look something that he's never been - average.

Oh how it must have bitten deep for Ponting to fail while watching Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey make it look simple. If Ponting hasn't succeeded (or doesn't) in the second innings against the Proteas' revived attack led by Dale Steyn, then he would have suffered five straight failures with the bat, evoking sentiments that he did play one series too many, but hindsight is a wonderful teacher. Hopefully the unlikely, the magnificent, has (will) occur.

Either way, one Ricky Ponting has been an out and out star cricketer - one of the best ever. No one will forget the distinctive shot-making which brought many an attack to its knees. The driving, the hip swivelling pull shot . . . the competitive instinct. He had no peer in that department.

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