This weeks European Tour golf once again comes from South Africa and the very topical Nelson Mandela Championship. This was played least year at a different venue but was reduced to a 36 hole event due to heavy rains and some holes were unplayable and the whole thing was a farce and of no use a s a form guide. Mount Edgecombe is a ne venue for the tour, there have been a few minor Sunshine Tour events there in the past but it is effectively a clean sheet which may help the overseas players chances a little but I still prefer backing home players in South Africa.
The course is said to be a short, old school lay out with plenty of water hazards and with more heavy rain forecast there is a chance that this year’s event will be dominated by bad weather and a soggy course. The rough will be heavy and penal so keeping the ball in play will be important but on a short course that should just men keeping the driver in the bag as often as possible.
The quality of the field is very weak. What else can you say when Romain Wattel is 5th favourite. I think the boy has great potential but 25/1 for a player yet to win anything on Tour? Bad weather, a new venue, a weak field and all over shadowed by the death of the man the Tournament is named after, this event really has very little going for it but I will consider a couple of contenders. Please note that this tournament has been brought forward a day and now starts on Wednesday and finishes on Saturday
1 point e/w Warren Abery @ 50/1 generally available
Picked up the biggest cheque of his career two weeks ago at Leopard Creek and indeed the last few weeks have been very lucrative for Abery with form figures of 6/20/9/9/9 boosting his earnings. He has not won since 2001 but he has seven wins on the Sunshine Tour so he knows how to win. He was ranked 16th for driving accuracy and 9th for greens in regulation so he should have the game to suit the nature of the course. Worth a speculative punt.
1 point e/w Tjaart Van Der Walt @ 66/1 with Boylesports, Ladbrokes
Ranked 1st for driving accuracy at Leopard creek and 14th for GIR he too should be well suited to this course and he was runner up in a Sunshine Tour event here in 2007. He won his first ever tournament at the end of October so these two factors should put him in a good frame of mind and in a weak filed he could well hit the jackpot and get a European Tour card at the ripe old age of 40.
England, 0-2 down in the series, now has to enter the lions den, the WACA in Perth for a match they cannot lose if they hope to have any chance of retaining the Ashes. The common consensus is that they might as well not even bother to turn up. Perth has been a graveyard for English teams in the past and historically they have lost 67% of their test matches played there and the last six in a row. Given the fact that they have been comprehensively thrashed in the first two matches of this series it is very hard to see why that should change this weekend.
The WACA is the home ground of Mitchell Johnson who has been transformed from a figure of ridicule in past Ashes series to England’s chief tormentor in the first two tests. His fast left arm deliveries have been too much for the English batsmen who have wilted under Australia’s pace mans attack, especially the short ball. The English batsmen have been literally forced unto the back foot and all but Bell and Root have succumbed to being caught out after pulling or hooking the short ball. It is poor shot selection and hints that more than a few of the English batsmen are not technically astute and perhaps simply scared by the pace. Root and Bell have shown more mettle and are prepared to pick up a few bruises rather than play a risky hook.
The Perth pitch is famously fast and bouncy, perfect for Mitchell Johnson as he demonstrated in the last Ashes test here, almost singlehandedly winning the match for Australia in a victory that was very much against the general run of form at the time. Given his current form, he looks very likely to be the key player for Australia and his odds of 7/4 to be Australia’s top bowler in the first innings look on the generous side. In five tests here he has taken a wicket on average every 33 balls which is marginally higher than Ryan Harris who has taken a wicket with every 32.7 balls but Harris is not a certainty to start this game after a long term knee injury flared up. Australia is giving him every chance and will not announce their team until after the toss but he is clearly not 100% fit. Mitchell has taken a minimum of five wickets per match and against England in 2010 he finished with 9 for 82 and he is different class in 2013.
4 points Mitchell Johnson to be Australia’s top 1st innings bowler @ 7/4 with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Betvictor.
On the batting front David Warner looks interesting at 4/1 to be Top Australian batsman as he has taken a liking to the Perth pitch, averaging 74.00, albeit from just two tests. Captain Michael Clarke is in good form but his form here has not been that good of late, averaging just 18.14 in his last four tests in Perth and he has been found out by the short ball on a few occasions. He is sure to get a few up around his throat early on and England has plenty of big tall quick bowlers to choose form who can cause him problems on his 100th test. England has yet to pick their team but with Tremlett picking up 8 wickets here in 2010 surely he must be considered for this game. He is said to have lost a bit of pace since then but Finn and Boyd Rankin are also waiting in the wings and if they are to get a game then this pitch looks ideal for both.
2 points Davis Warner to be Top 1st innings Australian Batsman @ 4/1 with Stan James, Spreadex.
It may be worth having a small play on that man Mitchell Johnson to be top 1st innings batsman for Australia, just as he was here in 2010. He can give the ball a hefty hit and being his home ground he knows the pace and bounce well. If he goes into bat on back of another outstanding performance with the ball he might just go for it and he will be ‘pumped’ as our Aussie friends would say.
0.5 point Mitchell Johnson to be top 1st innings Australian Batsman @ 50/1 with Skybet, Stan James
For the overall match result it is hard to oppose Australia but while they have been dominant against England in recent years they have not fared so well against other teams, losing to South Africa twice and India once making it four wins and three defeats from the last seven tests in Perth. England do have enough talented individuals to win any match but they need their top players to stand up and fight, be prepared to wear a few fast deliveries and if they can stop pulling and hooking they can blunt Australia’s attack but they must also score big runs. The pitch is fast and bouncy but if a batsman gets himself in and adjusts to that pace, there are plenty of runs to be had. However we have seen precious little in the way of good batting from England for quite some time and it will take a big jump in form if we are to see the likes of Cook, Pietersen, Carberry or Prior taking the game by the scruff of the neck.
Only Joe Root has stood out for England so far, especially against the quick bowling. He has chosen his shots well, refused to pull and hook and been prepared to get hit rather than play a poor shot. He has won the respect of the Aussie players with his attitude and he seems to have the best game and personality to try and get a big score on the board. Ian Bell was top England batsman here back in 2010 with 53 just 1 run better than Cook and Bell is another to consider but he a touch short at 4/1.
2 points Joe Root to be Top 1st innings England batsman @ 11/2 with Coral