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Cricket | Australia tour of South Africa 2017/18

Theunis de Bruyn (L) & Faf du Plessis © Gallo Images

Q&A with Neil: mid-Aus test series

The four-test series is squared after two tests and we have pinned Neil Manthorp down for another Q&A session before the third match.

Neil has given your comments due consideration, so get yourself a cuppa, sit back and enjoy his answers.

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
Baali Soda asked:
Hello Mr Neil, Thanks for answering my previous set of questions during the India tour of SA. I have few questions regarding the current hotly contested series between SA vs Australia, if possible kindly provide your views on it. Now that Rabada is not gonna be part of the series anymore (with Steyn too out till last week of March) whom do you think should come in his place ? Is Morkel an automatic choice? If not, how about Mulder? Has Temba Bavuma back to his fitness level? If so, will De bruyn make way for Temba? What type of surface are you expecting for next test at Cape Town? Will it be like the one which seamed (prodigiously) and bounced during India test? If it is possible, would you mind informing the correct pronunciation of SA player names to Mr Brendon Julian in the comm box (he kills KG''s name left, right and centre everytime)? Lastly, why the umps and match officials are hell bent on killing the Tests in myriads of ways when it needs them the most? (not talking about the their disciplinarian acts but about full quota of 90 overs not getting completed in most of the days, these days due to time up or lights down). Hope you enjoyed the St Georges Park game, immensely (I did as a neutral fan). Thanks as always for your interesting views, sir!
Neil answered:
Hi Baali, I reckon it is a no-brainer that Morkel returns. Temba Bavuma seems certain to be fit so he will definitely be considered (although he has only played one club game in the last eight weeks.) I don’t think Mulder will play because of his inexperience – and it is a HUGE test match. But you never know – Ottis Gibson is a big fan of his. I suggest you write to Brendon Julian – I’m not going to talk to him about it! He is trying but, I agree, with modest success.
Umpires are far more concerned with getting a good rating from the players and keeping their lucrative contracts than they are in keeping the test match moving forward or ensuring that it is played ‘clean’. Which is why we have lost over 30 overs in the series so far and the umpires claim to have “heard nothing”.
Angaas asked:
How does ICC and CSA permit Crowe who played for South Australia, adjudicate both of Rabada''s outbursts against the Ozzies. Do they have a sense of fairness and appoint a real neutral?
Neil answered:
The ICC’s Match Referees obviously don’t adjudicate matches and series involving their countries of birth – I think it might get a bit complicated if we tried to prevent them from adjudicating in countries which they have played! Crowe is a good man, firm and fair. Personally, I think he made the wrong decision with the Rabada/Smith shirt-touching incident but he would not have made that decision alone. I believe there were a number of factors he did not consider, not the least of which was Smith’s gesture to the umpire following the contact. He was clearly looking for a foul. Soccer’s equivalent of the dive.
Dean Sanders asked:
Hi Neil. What an absolute pleasure reading your answers and your tour diaries, I am a huge fan!! Short but sweet, do you think that Steyn will be an automatic selection for the 3rd test considering Rabada''s ban? On Rabada''s ban, I think test cricket is bordering on a 10 year old girl in the playground. Surely we as the paying public want to see rough and tough and in your face cricket?
Neil answered:
Thank you kindly, Dean. I appreciate that very much. It can feel like I’m writing in a vacuum sometimes…! I’m afraid there’s no chance of Dale being ready for the Newlands test, much as he would have loved to be fit. He will now only play in the final round of Sunfoil Series games in order to try and prove his fitness for the Wanderers test. I have it on very good authority that he is desperate to play some part in the series and, in particular, to have a crack at Warner.
Yes, it is getting very soft. I don’t think it’s so difficult to distinguish between sporting emotion and unrelated, nasty aggression.
Donovan joynt asked:
With the the state of the ball on the hard pitches in this series, and the early reverse swing we''ve been seeing; I never heard any much commentary about strategies on negating it other than the technical aspects of the set up in relation the reverse swinging ball. I have a proposed strategy to counter it. It goes a little something like this. Can''t the in form or "in" batsman target certain balls from certain bowlers with the view if sending them out of the park over the short boundaries, as soon as the Kookaburra starts to show signs of reverse swing, since it would then require a ball replacement that would need to be worked on for at least 10 or 15 overs before it would begin reversing again. Surely there would be 1 ib 12 or 18 balls that could be safely punished in that manner. Could you tell me if this is something that the team and coaches will have considered. At the very least standing down the pitch a few feet and out side the line of off stump ala Amla, when he is in form, to negate the swing when Stark is bowling around the wicket to right handers'', taking a lot of risk out and bringing in the on drive and the whip
Neil answered:
Hi Donovan, this is a curious mixture of high-end technical strategy and Peter Pan meets Tinkerbell. Are you seriously suggesting that a batsman can simply hit the ball out of the stadium if he doesn’t like the way it is swinging? And not just out of the stadium, but so far out of it that the ball is lost…! I’m not sure there are more than half a dozen batsmen in the country who can hit it that far, never mind on demand! Your observations about the batsmen’s ‘set up’ at the crease and technical ways to counter reverse swing are sharply observed. One of the reasons the Proteas top order (apart from AB) didn’t change much is because you need to practise a new technique to be sure it works before you take it into a test match. And there are no left-armers who reverse the ball at 140 km/h from wide of the crease in this country. Well, there is one – but I’m not sure he’d be willing to bowl in our nets to give the boys some practise…
Donovan Joynt asked:
With AB rediscovering some blistering form, and his career being limited in terms of how much time he has left and how much time he is willing to give it. Can he give more to the game. If I had the choice; for the remainder of his tenure, I would bid him to have as much time in the mioddle to play as many gorgeous, classic and improvised brilliant strokes as is possible, even if it means he opens the batting, He has the eye and the class. So this question is more for AB than Neil. AB, don''t rob the world and what will be history in the making, of the thrill to watch you doing what you do so exceedingly well, at least some of the time perhaps open the batting so we can see you dominate sides from the get-go and have more of you in the limited time we have. The st George''s test was a rare delight and I don''t know about Neil but I could watch AB in action ad nauseam. Neil what are your thoughts?
Neil answered:
I could watch him bat for 12 hours, and one day (or two) I hope I do. Because he’d have 400 by then.
Like all long-term relationships, AB and cricket just needed to take a step back from each other last year to reassess where they were. Turns out they still loved each other after all and we are all seeing that in sparkling clarity now. AB signed another one-year contract with CSA and I have no doubt there will be many more hours of entertainment to come from him.
Willem Ehlers asked:
Hi Neil

In any sporting code the rule is that if you want to speak directly to an opponent: You first speak to your captain, who then speaks to the umpire, who in turn speaks to the opposing team''s captain, who then speaks to the player in question. Why is "sledging" still allowed in professional sport?
Neil answered:
One of the many peculiarities of cricket – although there is plenty of sledging that goes on in in most other team games like soccer and rugby. It can be deeply distasteful and unpleasant to watch – Mitchell Starc’s verbal assault of Theunis de Bruyn was relentlessly ugly. But the Aussies have long had a “whatever it takes” approach. Umpires are intimidated by the reputation and stature of the game’s biggest stars and are well aware of the ‘influence’ international captains can have on their careers.
Byron Towers asked:
Hi Neil, Besides the current group of fast bowlers currently in the Proteas test squad I cannot seem to think of any other fast bowlers in our domestic franchises who would be able to look at home on the international stage. Is our domestic 4 day competition not up to standard or are we not looking after the young talented bowlers coming through?
Neil answered:
Actually, Byron, I think the fast bowling depth is pretty good at the moment. Very, very few fast bowlers settle quickly into test cricket let alone make an immediate impact so we’ve been very lucky to have Rabada and Ngidi do just that. Don’t forget Duanne Olivier who has what it takes to be successful at test level and Beuran Hendricks, Malusi Siboto and Junior Dala are worth a shot. Wiaan Mulder…?
Peter asked:
Good day Neil . Thank you for the open forum and coverage . This question might be a little frivolous and potentially political . Is it possible that the Australians hold to much power when it comes to the cricket board? The incidents in this tests and the result of such incidents that went for disciplinary , indicates any south African will be punished by losing match time and thus benefiting the Australians . The incident with Faf at Aus also indicated a bias towards Australia and there are even more examples and is starting to feel like a ploy rather than part of the gentleman game . Is there a way for the rest of the world in cricket to change this to a more unbiased panel or is this just going to be the norm for all well represented countries ?
Neil answered:
South Africa’s international cricketers have had a bit of a ‘persecution complex’ ever since the return to international cricket. And to be fair, there have undoubtedly been a few match officials and administrators who have made little effort to conceal their disdain or dislike for our cricketers. But other times the bias has been imagined and they have been their own worst enemies. It is my experience that we are treated no differently than other member of the ‘small 7’. Naturally, there is a bias towards the ‘big 3’ of India, England and Australia. But our protests and actions against that should be calm, organised and persistent rather than loud and angry. You don’t get anywhere by shouting and jumping up and down.
Thomas asked:
Good day Neil. Thank you for your time. Youir views are always insightful. I would like your comment on 2 things. 1. What are your feelings on our chances now that KG is not playing? I cannot see Morkel rolling over teams like steyn or Rabada have done. 2. Does Dale still have a future as the last 2 returns didn''t go well and I fear a ''strike 3'' situation is looming if he breaks down again. I beleive he still cna offer a lot to the team and t oopposition batsmen :-). Just not confident he will. Ok 1 last point. What was the match defining moment for you in P.E? To me it was AB''s quick scoring 100 against the Aussies which returned the pressure!
Neil answered:
On current form and considering what he did to the Aussie ‘psyche’ in PE, losing Rabada reduces the Proteas’ chances of victory by as much as 20%. Yes, seriously, that much! No, Morkel won’t run through a team like Steyn or Rabada, but he might help Philander and/or Ngidi run through one! We are exceptionally fortunate to have a man with 297 test wickets on the bench. And he’ll be rested, refreshed and raring to go.
AB’s hundred gave me goosebumps. The fact that it was scored with the match significantly weighted in Australia’s favour, that he hit almost everything in the middle of the bat when nobody else seemed to have a middle, that he inspired Philander and Maharaj to score critical 30s. AB de Villiers is at his best now – right now! But the defining moment of the test match was Rabada’s five wickets in 18 balls. Australia were 98 without loss and heading for 300 .
Garrick Philp asked:
All over the world, except on Supersport, we hear comment on TV from the Third Umpire during the DRS process. Is there any reason for this? Thank you for your eagerly anticipated reports and diary.
Neil answered:
Garrick – you writing to me from Guangzhou?! I was there 25 years ago…and you can watch the cricket there. Wow, I can only imagine the size of your satellite dish.
I honestly don’t know why but I imagine it is a technical or practical decision rather than an editorial one. I will find out and give the reason in my daily diary as soon as I discover why. I believe hearing that dialogue adds a great deal to the broadcast – except for the bit where the third umpire says “ok, rock and roll that.” That’s just cringe time.
Reynard Bartman asked:
Hi Neil, I''m avidly following the Proteas cricket summer and, to be honest, it felt like the Proteas haven''t clicked into top gear. It feels like ages ago since a Protea has scored a double test ton (Kallis at Newlands?) or had a team at 40 odd for 4 or 5 wickets down and winning by an innings. The killer instinct I feel is lacking. What do you think? With all the ICC involvement (unnecessary reprimands / fines) lately, it feels that this mediocre trend will just continue and the armchair Protea fan like myself are getting used to lost series (Test & ODI) at home (Eng''17 and Ind''18) and not dominating like the Windies of old or the Aussies in the early 2000''s. Are we ever going to win some silverware? On a positive note, I love the depth created in the bowling department in all formats. It''s great to see the Ngidis et al. What is your view on the extra batsmen (Bavuma or De Bruyn) - is one of these 2 the answer going forward or shall we invest in an allrounder like Andile, Mulder or someone else? Shall CSA blood some new talent for the last test should we win in Newlands?
Hoping for a vision led CSA with proper structures in place to keep our guys motivated to play for the proteas and hopefully a successful global T20 this year! Thank you for your continuous input on the radio and cricket in general......warm regards.
Neil answered:
Hello Reynard, How is Zambia? Still peaceful and well organised? :)
That’s a lot of questions and observations. It was only six months ago that the Proteas demolished Bangladesh and only three months ago that they beat Zimbabwe in a day and a half. Oh, they don’t count? If they win at Newlands they will only be 2-1 up so I hope they pick their very strongest XI to ensure they win and not draw the series! An allrounder is the ideal way to go – most of the best teams had/have one (or even two.) The names you mention have the potential to develop into a test allrounder and I would add Dwaine Pretorius to that list. You might see Chris Morris included in the squad for the Newlands test – mostly on the back of his century for the Titans last week.
Solomzi Henge asked:
Good day Neil. We all said that Temba Bavuma was unlucky to be left out for the Indian Test Series considering his performances in Australia, New Zealand and England. What led to him being overlooked for Theunis de Bruin for the Current Aussie tour starting XI? This is probably the last time the likes of Amla, AB, Faf, Morne and Steyn face the Aussies in a Test Series, Do we have sufficient depth to be competitive next time we come up against them with the nucleus of the team going on retirement?
Neil answered:
Temba Bavuma was certainly unlucky – but because he broke a finger playing for the Cobras! He was omitted for the first test against India when the Proteas opted to go with five frontline bowlers but, technically, he remains the first choice ‘extra’ batsman. He has still been recovering during the first two tests but will definitely be considered for the Newlands test.
It’s a long time until we play the Aussies again in a test series but there is enough talent around to suggest we will remain competitive.
Warren asked:
Neil - give us your definition of ''the line''...
Neil answered:
1 - Any comment, observation, greeting or parting shot which is morally and ethically acceptable to the majority of Australian cricketers belongs on the ‘right’ side of the line.
2 – Contrary to popular perception, The Line is not straight. It is wavy, more like the radio wave.
3 – Also contrary to popular perception, not all Australian cricketers believe in sledging or The Line. You won’t find Usman Khawaja sledging, for example.
4 – The wavy line is drawn by the most robust Australian sledgers and they are the sole arbiters of what belongs on either side of it. And what can be repeated or made available for public consumption via stump mics, for example.
5 – If a member of the opposition disagrees with something being on the ‘right’ side of the line and objects, either formally or informally, then they are ‘weak’ and not ‘real men.’
Jacques asked:
Hi Neil, would a dry Cape Town wicket play more into our hands, or is this Australian attack to diversified for that. My thinking was that adding a 2nd spinner could be a good option seeing that Rabada will not be available. Think the Aussies are already preparing for Morkel to replace Rabada so any surprise could catch them off guard?
Neil answered:
Second spinners in SA test teams are like men with ponytails – 99 out of a hundred times they just don’t work. It might have been worth considering as an option if there were any chinks in the armour of Keshav Maharaj, but he can attack and defend when necessary and he can bowl a lot of overs. Markram and Elgar can offer him a couple of overs of support if the ball is turning sideways. Both Australia and South Africa are far too dependent on their three seamers to change the game plan at this stage of the series.
Dane Killian asked:
Hi Neil. Your diary - great read as always. To start off with something perhaps differing from the influx of KG comments, Lungi Ngidi and perceived fitness issues. May you clarify whether there actually is a school of thought that he could be in better shape? I recall Herschelle Gibbs on social media having a bit of a general go at not everyone being in peak physical condition during the Indian ODI series and Graeme Smith eluded to Ngidi and fitness ("a lot to carry around for 20 odd overs in a day''s play) in wrapping up the 2nd test. Match fitness perhaps rather than weight issues? What is the viewpoint of the general cricketing fraternity. Alas, seems be doing the job just fine to me... Now to Kagiso''s on-field antics. People seems to be ferociously in one camp or the other depending on where allegiances lie. But even as a staunch Proteas supporter seeing it again this week, it doesn''t look great in my humble opinion. As you quoted in your diary, Steve Smith''s comments I actually find to be agreeable taking out the emotion for a second (that word is the whole problem I suppose, such an emotive issue we are talking about). The bowler has won, that battle is over - the batsman is dismissed. Let the cricket do the talking. OR yes go nuts, it''s a huge feat dismissing a player of Smith''s calibre, but why intentionally in the face of the man!? Celebrate with your teammates. I don''t like it, kicking an opponent when he''s down. For such a level headed bloke with maturity beyond his years perhaps it is just a reminder the kid is still there, and understandably so at his tender age. BUT, does bad sportsmanship warrant bans? Isn''t it a ''so-what''/ non related issue. If a player chooses to do something with less class shall we say then he''ll be regarded as just that, unsportsmanlike- but to be banned... where does that lie in the rule book though? Is it a direct indiscretion? And thus calls for punishment like in the way kicking/ throwing away the ball in football means an immediate yellow card. Or is it entirely subjective & at the mercy of this ''spirit of the game'' mantra? Like David Warner''s ridiculously over the top celebration of AB''s run out in Durban. Unnecessary, certainly does not make him look like the nice guy (insert stronger word) but would that really warrant a ban if it happened to be done in the batsman''s face. Surely not!? To finish off, now that we''ve been robbed of KG''s presence I think we may do quite well to come away with a drawn series. Of course things may change, but what is it about being unable to beat the Aussies on home soil? Familiar or favourable conditions/ less pressure on them/ more on us. Do you have any explanation, I am dumbstruck. Thanks for your time.
Neil answered:
Thank you, Dane. Glad you appreciate the effort! Ngidi is in the hands of the best Franchise fitness and conditioning team in the country at the Titans. He obviously has a big build but I think you’d be surprised at how little ‘excess’ there actually was if you saw him in a pair of Speedos! No doubt he can, and will improve his conditioning in the years ahead – he’s basically only been a full-time, committed professional for about a year. Before that, he played, yes, but in his own words he “didn’t really know what I was doing.”
I don’t believe Rabada gave Warner a ‘send-off”, that’s what annoys me. A send-off, surely, requires obscene language and/or gestures following a batsman’s dismissal. Neither of those was forthcoming from Rabada. But I agree that he should have done his primal screaming of “Yes! Yes!” a little further away from Warner.
On previous Australian tours to this country, I believe the Proteas have been hamstrung by the enormity of their own determination to win – they’ve put too much pressure on themselves. And they were guilty of playing against reputations rather than bat and ball.
saleem abbas asked:
Why has the ICC come down so hard on Rabada where it is clear there was hardly any contact with smith?smith has deliberately tried to get rabada in trouble. can something not be done regarding this?what happen to sportmanship?has the game deteriorated that much that there are no more honest cricketers? furthermore why did the ICC not com down harder on warner and marsh?correct me if i am wrong but to me it seems as if there is clear favouratism happening here.the aussies targeted rabada to get him suspended. thats my view point.
Neil answered:
Hi Saleem, the ICC Code of Conduct is quite clear about physical contact – there can be none of it between batsman and bowler. It doesn’t matter about the degree or severity of it. I believe that’s why Jeff Crowe reached the decision he did. My problem is that Steve Smith admitted that he and his team would get Rabada “fired up”, he could see that contact was a possibility and he clearly drew the umpire’s attention to it moments after it had happened. He then pretends 24 hours later that it’s a pity Rabada was suspended because “you always want to play against the best players.”
Don Nelson asked:
Does the match referee, in this case Jeff Crowe, have the latitude to reduce the demerit points if he so wishes despite him giving a guilty decision. In other words could he have suspended Rabada for one test instead of two, taking into consideration that the paying public would be adversely affected?
Neil answered:
Don! Great to hear from you!
A Level 2 offence carries a minimum of three demerit points, enough to bring the automatic suspension. In order for him not to be suspended, Crowe could have reduced the offence to Level 1 (which CSA tried to do by arguing that the contact was accidental rather than deliberate.) But Crowe said he could “see no evidence that it was accidental.”
Rudi asked:
Hi Neil Thank you for taking the time. I am concerned that, other than KG, we seem to be lagging in terms of our bowlers'' ability to bowl with real pace. The first time I saw Lungi he often reached the high 140s, however in this series (and the preceding 1-day series) his pace seemed down. Naturally Philander is quite slow and even big Morne seemed a bit off in that regard. All three front-line Aus bowlers consistently average over 140 and even Mitch Marsh gets there every now and again. Similarly, the Indian bowlers, who traditionally should be quite a bit slower, matched ours for speed. Is this something SA can address, i.e. is this a training- or a strength issue, or do we just accept it?
Neil answered:
It’s a question that has been asked for many, many decades. “Can you coach speed – and if so, how?” the answer would appear to be: “No, you cannot coach speed – but you can improve it with coaching.” So, you have to be born with speed to be a fast bowler. And there isn’t much you can do if a part6icular generation doesn’t have many fast bowlers born into it! Actually, I thought Lungi and Morne have looked pleasantly rapid in the last couple of months.
Rob asked:
Hi Neil, I have heard some Aus commentators, regard the current Aus bowling attack as perhaps the finest in the world right now. Is that a bit of a stretch? The Indian bowling attack was pretty terrific. Ours hasn''t been too bad either. From what we have seen this summer, whose attack would you rate the finest? When D Steyn (if) and KG return would we not have an attack rivaling the finest ever? DS, KG,VP and MM.
Neil answered:
I have even said that the current Australian attack, given fitness and the form they have been in for the last six months, is the best in the world. It’s not just Aussie commentators! It’s not just about their skill as individuals, it’s about the way they compliment each other – right down to Mitchell Starc creating rough for Nathan Lyon to work with in the second innings. But yes, any combination of SA’s quicks with Maharaj as the spinner is easily capable of matching the Australian attack. (And of course, I’d pick our attack!)
Dave Patterson asked:
Why for the first time in living memory, I am 66, did the umpires quieten the band playing at St George''s. Was there a complaint by the Aussies? Seems ridiculous to me.
Neil answered:
Hello Dave, it’s not quite the first time. Match Referee David Boon asked them to limit their playing to drinks breaks and between overs in a test match against NZ a couple of years ago. Which was a problem given that the average length of their tunes is about 10 minutes. This time there was no complaint from either team – in fact, both said they were enjoying the band. The problem was senior umpire Kumar Dharmasena who said he couldn’t concentrate or hear the edges. It really was a little pathetic, to be honest, and may suggest his best days are behind him. He has officiated in the IPL where every game would be noisier than the St.George’s band – and also the Caribbean. Ever heard the Steel Band in the Trini Posse stand?
Mfezeko asked:
Hi Mr Manthorp from the India series, Virat Kohli was very animated in his celebrations for every wicket they took. Now KG is a fast bowler and its a known fact that fast bowlers are aggressive and emotional, Kohli was not even bowling but was over the top with his celebrations. He was never even reprimanded. I think this de-merit point system is favorable and has been unfair towards KG
Neil answered:
Hello Mfezeko, I agree with you completely. The only difference would appear to be the proximity of Rabada to the departing batsman – sorry, batsmen! He said after the game that he would not change the way he celebrates after taking a wicket but that he would “make sure I’m further away from the batsman when I do it!”
Alexander MC Donald asked:
Hi Neil.(Having problem a with my space bar, my apologies)Always enjoy your Commentary on the Radio.1. Do the radio commentators have access to the stump mike audio? if so , would you be able to comment on what a typical australian ''sledge'' would be? 2.Would you be able to elaborate on whether Warner did get Personal with Quinton, during that period on the field before the break?3.Can you share some good sledges and some bad sledges that you might have heard in you time as a commentator. 4.Did KG deserve his punishment, was it a ploy by Australia? if I was in the SA camp I would make sure to get in the way of every Australian bowler for the littlest of contacts, and then run to the match referee afterwards, I don''t want to watch the next game, because now it feels like soccer, people being dishonest about the slightest of physical contact.
Neil answered:
1 – Yes, we do have access to the stump mic audio – and we can turn it up as loud as we like! (Although only for our ears, not for public broadcast.)
2 – None of us can be certain what was said on the field between Warner and de Kock and, to be honest, even if I had I would respect the decision by them not to make the contents public. It would contain a lot of censorship, anyway!
3 – A certain Gary Kirsten once invited a group of very attractive ladies to join him and some of the other Proteas at a horse racing event one evening on tour in Australia. They declined. During the next test match, one of the Aussies said: “Right boys, let’s give Tom Cruise here something to think about…” The ladies in question had been the Australian players wives and girlfriends.
4 – I believe the punishment to be excessive and yes, Steve Smith admitted before the series they would look to get Rabada “fired up” because of his disciplinary record. But I do hope the SA players don’t stoop to the same low, as you suggest.

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