Durban all set for a spicy affair

2010-12-24 00:00

THE gloves are most certainly off now, and the Proteas will tackle an Indian side keen on getting back into the three-match series come Sunday morning.

While most of you will be reaching for a stray turkey drumstick left over from the night before, Graeme Smith and his men will be looking to find another gear and wrap up a series win at the earliest opportunity.

While they are at it, they would do well to put right a Kingsmead record that is not too favourable in recent years.

They trounced India the last time the number-one ranked Test side was here in 2006, but the last two matches have brought plenty of pain for Proteas’ supporters.

A 175-run drubbing at the hands of a Mitchell Johnson-inspired Australian side in 2009 was followed by an innings and plenty of embarassment against the Poms and their barmy Army.

“Our record in Durban hasn’t been the best over the last few years, so it would be nice to set that right,” captain Graeme Smith said after the team’s first training session at Kingsmead yesterday.

The Proteas arrived late for their session, but mischievous rumours that Jacques Kallis was at the wheel of the team bus were quickly dismissed.

Smith’s men are here on business, and much the same can be said about their opposition.

The Indians, notorious in their dealings with the press, declined the chance to hold a press conference yesterday, despite its being the last chance for any of the local newspapers to carry a story.

MS Dhoni’s men are on a mission of their own, as they try to come from behind in yet another series.

It will certainly not be easy, and the pitch prepared by curator Wilson Ngobese looks a good’un.

There looks to be a fair amount of bounce in it, but the so-called “Green Mamba” of old looks like it has been replaced by a brown house snake that occasionally bares its harmless fangs.

The Proteas, despite winning by an innings in Pretoria, looked scratchy in certain parts of their game and Smith admitted that they have to get better.

“You are alway looking to improve, and we missed a few run outs and a few catches went down as well,” he said.

Smith also emphasised the importance of having options within his bowling unit, with Paul Harris a certain starter again.

Interestingly, the match occurs at the new home of South Africa’s mooted new spin saviour, one Imran Tahir.

As festive luck would have it, this correspondent bumped into the Pakistani-born in the parking lot.

As bubbly as ever, Tahir explained that his papers are not yet sorted, but it could be as little as a month away.

His own form at Kingsmead has been exciting to say the least, but for now the Proteas will go along with the tried and trusted Harris.

Another bone of contention in the Proteas’ attack has been Lonwabo Tsotsobe, but even the most sceptical observer at Centurion had to admit that the Warriors leftie was a little more than just a bit unlucky.

Edges just flew past fielders, inside edges missed the stumps by inches — and when a chance did go to hand, it was dropped.

“Lopsy” looked like he was about to cry at some stages, but it would be incredibly harsh to drop him after just one go at the Indians.

So the Proteas look very likely to stay as they were at Centurion, with the Indians set to bring the combative Zaheer Khan back into the fold.

He and Smith have what some may call “history”, and that is just one of many sub-plots that will make the Boxing Day fare in Durban rather spicy.

SQUADS:

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher, Morné Morkel, Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren and JP Duminy.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Sree Sreenath, Jaidev Unadkat, Suresh Raina and Cheteshwar Pujara.

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