Cardboard cut-outs help Steyn hit the spot
Any Ideas? ... South Africa's bowling coach Allan Donald and Test spearhead Dale Steyn talk tactics, not Melbourne Cup tips. Photo: AP
They say he can't bowl to left-handers so Dale Steyn has taken a novel approach to his first Test preparation - bowling at a cardboard cut-out in the Gabba nets to ensure his line and length are just right. The world's top-ranked bowler will be eager to prove his former coach Mickey Arthur wrong by knocking over the lefty-heavy Australian batting line-up, and if he does the cardboard batsman may be the hero. South Africa won no friends in the nets on Thursday, however, giving the cold shoulder to half a dozen local bowlers who had cleared their schedules to give the Proteas a final pre-Test hit-out. Fair enough if the tourists did not want another bat but the young Brisbane quicks left twiddling their thumbs could have used a bit of notice.
Siddle sees clearly
Peter Siddle isn't expected to lead the way with the bat for Australia this summer but he could well be a lower-order snag for South Africa if his improved eyesight is any indication. The Australian pace leader told The Tonk he had laser surgery on his eyes in the off-season and it appears to have proved a master stroke - he notched up his highest first-class score, 87, for Victoria against Western Australia and threw in another Sheffield Shield half-century against Queensland at the Gabba for good measure. ''I've worn contacts for pretty much all of my career and I had a bit of time off this year, we had no Tests throughout the winter so I had a bit of spare time. I'd always been nervous about getting laser but I bit the bullet and went in and got it done. I'd recommend it to everyone, it's been amazing,'' Siddle said. ''I feel a lot more comfortable out in the middle batting so I can't 100 per cent say it's because of that but at the moment I'm feeling like I'm seeing the ball a bit better.''
Party like it's 2010 ... Graeme Smith has made it easy to find out exactly how the tourists are faring. The match hasn't started yet, so he's fair to middling at the moment. We'll be updating it daily. Play it again, Smithy.
View from the top
So will the television audience if Channel Nine's plans to introduce a helmet camera for the Gabba Test are given the green light. Nine had gained tentative approval from both teams and was waiting on Thursday for approval from the ICC.
Who said the Australian cricket team were household names? That certainly didn't seem to be the case at the annual Queensland Cricket luncheon in Brisbane this week, the auctioneer flogging signed bats and the like repeatedly referred to the left-arm seamer as ''Michael Starc''. There were giggles aplenty at the Australian table where poor Starc was seated. The mood may not have been as jovial at the Bradman Oration in Melbourne last month where one table setting read: ''Ricky Ponting. Former player.''
Arthur back in game
When he is not devising Australia's game plan to return to the top of the Test world rankings Mickey Arthur has been keenly returning to his first love - actually playing the game. The national coach has already appeared in two matches this season for Perth club Western Suburbs in the division one one-day league, in a team that also occasionally features the South African-born former England batsman Robin Smith. Arthur, 44, was a decent cricketer in his own right, scoring more than 6000 first-class runs in a career that spanned 15 years before he retired in 2001. For Perth Wests he has made 58 and 71 not out in his two outings.
There is a new ''bromance'' in the community of Australian Test cricketers past and present. Debutant Rob Quiney spoke this week of his childhood admiration for Allan Border, and the ex-captain just happened to be in the huddle at Australian training on Tuesday as Michael Clarke addressed his team. ''He's still got the poster on the wall, and he kisses it every morning,'' was Clarke's little dig at Quiney, prompting the also present Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden - Australian cricket's original bromance - to turn back the clock with a mock cuddle of their own.
Tourists brush Cup
The race that stops a nation did nothing of the kind for the touring South Africans. As the Melbourne Cup was being run the Proteas were training in the outfield of the Gabba, oblivious to the eyes on TV screens just about everywhere else. The Australian team, though, may have wished they didn't watch the Cup. No player backed the winner Green Moon, with the only member of the national set-up to get on, the fielding and spin coach Steve Rixon. They were even brushed in the sweep, which went to team masseuse Grant Baldwin. No relation to Alec, Billy and Stephen.