New-look Australia can put flair before feuds

After weeks of vapid sabre-rattling, the Australians and South Africans can concentrate on cricket as their brief series begins in Perth tonight. Considering the racial wars taking place on southern Sydney beaches, the hostile remarks recently made by various parties were tiresome. Nor has anyone involved seen fit to raise a white flag or to remark that their opponents are a pretty good bunch, and fair cricketers to boot.

As far as cricket is concerned, South Africa have been plagued by injuries to Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini, Nicky Boje and Graeme Smith and will stumble into a match to be played on a fast pitch. Boeta Dippenaar is also missing. Jacques Rudolph and Ashwell Prince have been scoring most of the runs, but the bowling looks thin and lacks variety.

Since the Ashes, Australia have sacked their entire middle order and most of their pace bowling. Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee have surpassed themselves but the decision to play an all-rounder has not so far been rewarded.

Perhaps the series will bring the season to life. Australia needs something to cheer up a nation struggling to come to terms with the rush towards ugliness. Evildoers are winning the war by the backdoor. More than ever, sport needs to set an example.

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