It's swing time

AUSTRALIA is relying on Tasmanian batting stalwart Michael Di Venuto to help combat reverse swing specialist Dale Steyn in today's pivotal third Test against South Africa.

In his role as the national team's batting coach, the wily 40-year-old has been devising methods of dealing with Test cricket's top-ranked paceman, whose deliveries in the series-levelling loss at Port Elizabeth were virtually unplayable. 

Di Venuto and coach Darren Lehmann set up some bowling machines in training at Centurion in Cape Town to deliver extreme inswingers.

``The guys were getting used to facing those balls coming back in late and finding a way to combat it,'' Hobart-born Di Venuto, who played 336 first-class matches in the Sheffield Shield and county championship, said. 

``The bowlers had it swinging both ways.

``The guys always practice reverse swing. 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 said 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.'' 

With just one main training session to make amends before the series decider, the tourists even indulged in some of their own ball-tampering, working with old balls that had been scratched to promote reverse swing. 

``We were cheating today, scraping it on the concrete,'' Ryan 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.'' 

Michael Di Venuto

Michael Di Venuto