Test legend Matthew Hayden says Australia’s Test series against South Africa will hinge on the performances of Aussie skipper Michael Clarke and Proteas run machine Hashim Amla.
Speaking exclusively to 7News ahead of Friday’s opening Test, Hayden also encouraged Aussie opener David Warner to fight fire with fire when he takes guard against star South African paceman Dale Steyn.
Hayden, who scored six centuries in 19 Tests against the Proteas, said the fiery Steyn can become rattled when under attack.
Hayden believes Warner’s dashing stroke play could unsettle the man regarded as the best bowler in the world.
"I think fast means … they can explode as well," Hayden said of Steyn.
"I know when I was facing Dale I was very, very keen to just present a good sharp package to him. To ask questions of him straight away, to look to play positively even if it means taking a few risks, because I think he is vulnerable.
"He does get a good head of steam up like all good fast bowlers do, but that can (lead to) be a breakdown in the execution as well.
"Davey Warner will ask those questions straight away and I'm looking forward with great expectation to those two punching on."
With both sides boasting a brilliant fast-bowling line-up, Hayden said the batsmen who manage to blunt the opposition’s pace battery would turn the series in their side’s favour.
And he has nominated Clarke and Amla as the men most likely to take the three-match series by the scruff of the throat.
"What I'll be looking at really closely is who is going to stand up from both sides with the bat," Hayden said.
"(The bowling attacks) are very similar.
"Who’s it going to be from the Australian batting line-up that’s going to stand up? For me, I think that’s going to be Michael Clarke. And for the South African batting line-up that's going to be Amla.
"I think … if either one of those have a great Test match and start the Test match series well, I think that side will win."
Hayden also played down any advantage Australia has at the Gabba, where they haven’t lost a Test match in 24 years.
South Africa haven’t played at the Gabba since their re-admission to international cricket in 1991, but Hayden pointed out that Australia’s inexperienced side haven’t played much cricket at the Gabba either.
Apart from Test mainstays Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey, Australia boasts a total of eight Tests of experience in Brisbane.
Queenslander Hayden played the majority of his cricket at the Gabba and says playing in Brisbane is a unique experience.
"It is the most unique place on the planet bar none," he said.
"It's a venue when you've got to take the time to adjust.
"You can’t really train for it."
Watch the video at the top of the page to see Hayden's full preview of the first Test
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