Proteas in white with the red ball

2011-11-05 20:45

After months of limited-overs cricket, Test matches return to SA

At 10am on Wednesday in Cape Town, some South African cricket fans may struggle to recognise their national team.

They will be wearing white and playing with the red ball, in a format that has not been seen in the country for 10 months.

Test cricket returns to town and Australia are the first opponents South Africa take on in their quest
to go top of the International Cricket Council rankings.

And should the Proteas win all five Test matches this summer against Australia and Sri Lanka, they will leapfrog England to the number one spot.

It’s a tough challenge for a team which last won a home series three years ago, against lowly-ranked Test playing nation Bangladesh.

Since then, South Africa reached magical heights when they toppled Australia Down Under but have failed to emulate that success. While the core of the squad remains, the Proteas have made some modifications as they search for a change in fortune.

Jacques Rudolph has been recalled after a five-year hiatus during which he played for English county Yorkshire.

His recent success in the first-class game saw him top, with the bat, the SuperSport Series rankings last season and amass more than 500 runs from four matches this season.

Rudolph (30) will open the batting with Test captain Graeme Smith, who has battled for form since recovering from a knee injury. Smith has scraped together 104 runs in five limited-overs internationals against Australia and has looked uncomfortable at the crease, particularly against left-armers.

The series is said to be Smith’s watershed and could play a key role in determining his future.

The Proteas’ bowling attack will have a new look to it, with Pakistani-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir set to make his Test debut. His inclusion will give the team its first attacking spinner since Paul Adams, which leaves the tricky task of choosing a containing bowler.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Paul Harris and Vernon Philander are all in the squad and will tussle for that role, which could prove vital against a strong Australian top-six.

Ricky Ponting, without the burden of captaincy, has appeared in ominous form while Shane Watson looks better every time he takes the crease.

Composed opener Phil Hughes, explosive No 3 Shaun Marsh, the evergreen Michael Hussey and new captain Michael Clarke form the rest of their top-six line-up.

On the bowling front, the Baggy Greens welcome back Ryan Harris to spearhead the attack with Mitchell Johnson, who enjoyed a successful return to South Africa.

He made his name by terrorising the local batsmen throughout the summer of 2009 and took nine wickets in Australia’s tour match against South Africa A in Potchefstroom this week to announce his return.

Their options also include Pat Cummins and the aggressive duo of Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon.

Lyon will carry the spin responsibility.

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