Australia will return to South Africa this week for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal nearly two years ago, with David Warner and Steven Smith backed to respond through on-field performances to any attempts from the crowds to rekindle memories.
The tour includes three T20Is and three ODIs with the trip beginning in Johannesburg – the venue for the final Test of that infamous series when Tim Paine led a team without the three players who would be banned – with the T20I series also including a stop in Cape Town where the dramatic incident unfolded during the Newlands Test.
The reintegration and comeback for Warner and Smith have been completed (Cameron Bancroft made a comeback during the Ashes but is not part of the current set-up) but it is unlikely that the tour will pass without a few reminders of what unfolded.
“Think Steve and Dave have ticked off pretty much every box since coming back and this is just another one of those; don’t think it will faze them one bit,” ODI team-mate Josh Hazlewood said. “They probably play better when it’s like this, probably try and take as much heat as they can and keep the younger guys out of the spotlight. It’s nothing we haven’t experienced before; it’s quite a long time ago now and a lot of different players from that Test team.”
In the recent South Africa-England Test series Ben Stokes was fined after a foul-mouthed response to heckling from a member of the crowd at the Wanderers. Hazlewood’s personal experience is to try and not get wound up by whatever the crowd says and even try to play along with it where possible.
“Think just join in and have a good time with them,” he said. “Often when you do that, they’ll be on your side after half an hour. It is when you fight them it becomes quite abusive. Ride the storm and go along with it – that’s what’s worked best for me.”
Warner will enter the tour on the back of being crowned the Allan Border Medallist – pipping Smith by one vote and Pat Cummins in third – with the outcome prompting calls, even by Border himself, that perhaps the way in which votes are put together for the award needs to be looked at.
While Hazlewood agreed that the system may not always reward a long run of less eye-catching consistent performances – for example, a bowler regularly taking three or four-wicket hauls – as against a number of stand-out achievements, he said that Warner’s award highlighted what he brings to Australia across three formats, especially how he has achieved it after his return from the ban.
“It says a lot [about him],” Hazlewood said. “What it says is that when Davey has a good game we basically win the game. He’s a big match-winner in T20s, one-dayers or Tests. When he has a good game it sends us a long way towards winning the game.”
Hazlewood will join the South Africa tour for the ODI leg having again missed out on the T20I squad but hopes that his strong finish to the Big Bash – where he helped the Sydney Sixers clinch the title – will stand him in good stead with the T20 World Cup in October
“That was the reason I played the Big Bash to get an opportunity in T20s, it’s hard to break into that team, they played two series in the summer and didn’t lose a game,” Hazlewood said. “We’ll see moving forward, hopefully there’s an opportunity. I felt pretty comfortable out there. I managed to get five games and did well in most of them. [I] Bowled a bit in each part of the game – the start, the middle and the end – so feeling quite confident in whichever role I do.”