It’s back to the basics as Proteas approach final Test

2014-02-26 00:00

HAVING got up off the canvas with a vengeance to win the second Test against the Australians courtesy of Dale Steyn’s knock-out punch with the ball, Graeme Smith and his men head for Newlands with a spring in their step for the deciding showdown, starting on Saturday.

It takes hard work and a fresh start to produce the same result and while the win in Port Elizabeth will fuel the Proteas to gain the ascendency, the result is effectively in the history books and it’s back to the basics and going through the motions all over again.

However, anything that can boost the team will not be cast aside, especially against an Australian team who were suddenly deflated within four days last week. Let’s not forget, this team were on a roll, having smashed England 5-0 and then swept us aside with relative ease at Centurion.

Let’s rub it in and enjoy it while we can. The fact that we can keep referring to ourselves as the number one Test side is enough to ruffle any Australian, and a ruffled Aussie sometimes isn’t completely focused on what he is doing. This leads to mistakes, which he can only ruefully reflect on from the window of the changeroom.

Hashim Amla, who made a welcome return to form with an undefeated century in the Proteas’ second innings at St George’s, believes momentum is key if the Proteas are to claim the series in Cape Town.

“Winning games, especially against tough opposition, obviously gives the team confidence,” he said. “To come back after our average performance in Centurion to be all square heading into the final Test shows what the team are capable of when the batsmen and bowlers come to the party.”

Newlands is a happy hunting ground for the Proteas. Their last defeat is but a distant memory — a seven-wicket loss to the Australians in 2006, but a wounded animal is always the most dangerous and the Proteas would do wise not to bask in their current glory. There is much work still to be done.

“There’s plenty riding on this Test with both sides wanting to win and prove a point,” Amla said. “While we have momentum on our side and know how to win, we will have to assess conditions carefully, which will set the tone for how we play and who we play in the team.”

Amla also touched on the character of the team, highlighting some memorable fightbacks in recent outings.

“We are a team known to never give up and come back hard after a defeat,” he said.

“I think of Adelaide when we were last in Australia, batting throughout the final day to save the match and how we nearly chased down well over 400 against India at the Wanderers last year, finishing only eight runs short of the target.

“We know what we have to do and know we can beat the Australians, even with a bowler short as happened in Port Elizabeth when Wayne Parnell was injured. It’s a matter of getting the job done.”

Amla’s hundred in the last Test saw him return to second in the ICC Test batting rankings, while AB de Villiers retained his number one spot. Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy also made significant moves thanks to their solid contributions with the bat, while Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander remained at one and two in the bowling rankings.

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