Australia’s cricketers engaged in ball-tampering at training on Thursday, seeking rapid improvement on the reverse-swing issues of the second Test.
South Africa’s quicks used the old ball to great effect in Port Elizabeth, with Dale Steyn particularly unstoppable in a collapse of 9-62.
In contrast, the tourists were not as prudent in the field at managing the condition of the ball and Australia’s pacemen “didn’t get a single delivery to reverse swing” in the words of Michael Clarke.
The visitors had one main training session to make amends before the three-Test series decider starts on Saturday and worked a lot with old balls that had been scratched to promote reverse swing.
“We were cheating today, scraping it on the concrete,” Harris said of the ploy.
“It’s good practice for the batters because it actually goes a lot more than what it does in a game.
“So if they can hit those, they’re obviously going to hit the ones in the game.
“It’s great practice for us (bowlers) as well .. and hiding the ball when you’re running in to bowl takes a lot of practice as well.”
The visitors are looking to copy Steyn’s approach to the bowling crease, in which he leaves batsmen with no idea as to whether the ball is swinging in or out.
Coaches Darren Lehmann and Michael Di Venuto also set up some bowling machines to deliver extreme inswingers, similar to those unplayable balls from Steyn in Port Elizabeth.
“The guys were getting used to facing those balls coming back in late and finding a way to combat it,” Di Venuto told AAP.
“The bowlers had it swinging both ways.”
Told of the extra focus on reverse swing, Steyn joked Australia “probably should have done that before they went to Port Elizabeth”.
Di Venuto noted Steyn’s reverse swing was exceptional in the second Test, but that his side knew what was coming.
“The guys always practice reverse swing,” he said.
“But obviously the quality of that spell in the second innings, it would have opened a few of the guys’ eyes up a little bit.”
Di Venuto admitted time at the crease was the best aid to reading reverse swing.
“Like anything, the longer you spend out there the easier it does get,” he said.
“Early in your innings you want to shorten your bat lift, get your pads out of the way and protect the stumps.”