Sledge fest looms after Aussie cricket’s cheeky request
AUSTRALIA have set the stage for a potentially-fiery first Test in South Africa after requesting the stump microphones to be turned down when the ball is not in play.
Fairfax reported on Thursday that Australian officials have asked the local broadcaster and match officials to keep the sound down, reminding them of ICC regulations that dictate that should be the case.
Typically, South African broadcasters leave the microphones turned up throughout play - unlike in Australia, where a fader is turned up and down as each ball is bowled.
It suggests the Aussies are again aiming to use verbal tactics to their advantage but mindful of what is said not being beamed out to the public.
Australia has a long history of on-field intimidation, insisting that they play the game in a hard but fair manner by pushing the boundaries without crossing them.
That has, however, led to instances where opposition teams feel Australia has overstepped the mark.
In the first Ashes Test, England complained about the sledging of their star Jonny Bairstow over a bizarre headbutt incident between the wicketkeeper-batsman and Australian debutant Cameron Bancroft earlier in the tour.
On that occasion, stump mics picked up Australian vice-captain David Warner saying "you shouldn't headbutt our mates" - Bairstow would soon throw his wicket away in a soft fashion at a key moment which swung the match in Australia's favour.
Australian skipper Steve Smith admitting it had been a tactical manoeuvre to unsettle Bairstow, and boasted in the post-match press conference about how well it had worked.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon addressed the issue of sledging and the on-field intimidation tactics which could be employed during what is tipped to be a tense, engaging series.
"What happens on the field stays on the field," Lyon said.
"We're all grown men. We compete hard. We know where the line is. We headbutt it probably, but we are not going to go over the line.
"It's a mental game as well as a physical game. If something is going to be said, then no doubt it will be said from both camps.
"I know when I go out to bat I get a warm welcome from most of them. It's part of the game.
"It's Test-match cricket, it's challenging, it's competitive, you're playing for your country. It's a great battle. We pay the South Africans a lot of respect and I've got no doubt that goes both ways.
"It is going to be one hell of a series and I'm pretty excited about it."
Previous Australia-South Africa Tests have been marred by sledging, with Michael Clarke and Dale Steyn engaging in a fierce battle four years ago while then-skipper AB de Villiers claimed that series involved "the most abuse we've got on a cricket field".
That contest was also famous for the Proteas current captain, Faf du Plessis, saying the Australian team acted "like a pack of dogs".
The first Test in Durban begins on Thursday night, and will be broadcast live and exclusively on Fox Sports from 6pm AEST.