Caring for each other has been Australia’s focus in Johannesburg.
Caring for each other has been Australia’s focus in Johannesburg.

‘Hard to get out of the mind’: Trio’s absence haunting Australia

CARING for each other has been Australia's focus in Johannesburg, with the fourth Test against South Africa a form of catharsis as well as a cricket contest.

The tourists, reeling from the cheating scandal that prompted captain Steve Smith to be sacked and coach Darren Lehmann to resign, look set to suffer a heavy defeat at the Wanderers.

Tim Paine's side will resume at 6-110 on day three, trailing by 378 runs. Australia, including jet-lagged late arrivals Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns, remain shocked by events of the past week that resulted in long bans for Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

"It's been tough, especially those couple of days after Cape Town," Pat Cummins said.

"But the day before the match we spoke about that it's still a Test match for Australia, let's find a way. We spoke about energy.

"When it started yesterday it was a bit weird not seeing Davey and Smithy and Bangers out there."

It’s been a tough start to the fourth Test, following an emotional rollercoaster of a week.
It’s been a tough start to the fourth Test, following an emotional rollercoaster of a week.

Bowling coach David Saker noted the main focus of the week has been to "care about each other".

"And trying to put in a performance that the Australian nation, and our group, are proud of," Saker said.

"So far that hasn't happened, but the effort's been there and there's no doubt in the dressing room the guys are trying their hardest.

"Watching Steve, Cameron and now David do it (apologise to the nation and break down in tears at press conferences), it's quite upsetting for a lot of the guys.

"There was a little bit of talk about it ... they're trying to blank it out and just get on with what we're doing now.

"It was a good place for some of the players to just get out and play cricket again."

Pat Cummins: It was a bit weird not seeing Davey and Smithy and Bangers out there.
Pat Cummins: It was a bit weird not seeing Davey and Smithy and Bangers out there.

Losing two of the world's best batsmen would affect most teams, but the mental challenges created by the ball-tampering saga have also been immense.

Paine suggested on Friday night that "a lot of the guys were thinking about some other things or were a little bit flat".

Saker admitted it would be naive to think there would be no impact on the team's performance.

"We're thinking about the people that are part of our team that we've lost and that's hurting a lot of people," he said.

"That's probably something that's hard to get out of their mind while they're playing.

"No excuses, but it's obviously playing a factor in the way we're playing."

South Africa batsman Temba Bavuma agreed.

"It would be crazy to think that there wouldn't be an effect. They have lost players that play a pivotal role in their success," Bavuma said.

"They lost their captain and I would like to think that they depend a lot on him in all aspects of their game."



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