Proteas must get a good start

2009-03-06 00:00

AND so, after a tumultuous week, it’s back to the cricket. The extra security that has shadowed both sides in their preparations for today’s second Test at Kingsmead has served as an ominous reminder of the events in Pakistan, but the players will be eager to get back on the field.

South Africa, notoriously bad starters that they are, have left themselves with a lot to do in order to propel themselves to the world number one spot.

“We know we let ourselves down in Joburg, and we do not need reminding,” a determined Graeme Smith said yesterday.

“We have had long, honest discussions about where we went wrong and where we can improve as a team, and we will look to raise our game accordingly,” he added.

Smith admitted that the option of playing Albie Morkel was tempting, but still reckoned that they will almost definitely play with the same eleven.

Kingsmead has had more than its fair share of rain this week, and there is a liberal sprinkling of grass on the strip to be used this morning.

Australia have had their own selection problems, with their impressive pace attack members all suffering various niggles in the build-up to today’s vital second test.

The situation was serious enough for Brett Geeves and Steve Magoffin to be summoned immediaately from back home as cover, but indications are that Mitchell Johnson is a certainty, while Peter Siddle and outswing merchant Ben Hilfenhaus will play through the pain.

Skipper Ricky Ponting said he has already spoken to his team, particularly the younger members, to warn them of a Protea backlash today.

“They all started well in Johannesburg, but the test is being able to do it again and again over a period of time,” Ponting explained.

Philip Hughes, the 20 year old opening batsman, has already spoken of his eagerness to renew acquaintances with the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

The diminutive opener had a mixed bag at the Wanderers, with a nervy, four-ball duck in the first dig followed up by a cavalier 75 in the second innings.

“I love it, and I can’t wait for more. They are two big fast bowlers and I am just a little opener,” he enthused.

“That’s the way they play and I am looking forward to more of the same,” he added.

Whatever South Africa do, they will have to do it well.

Smith, conscious of come-from-behind series wins over India and the West Indies recently, said it was crucial to start very well.

“Obviously it’s Australia we are up against, but we have to start very well.

“When we beat the Windies here last time, we rolled them over for very little in the first innings and that set the tone,” he explained.

Smith also revealed that the team is worried about Durban’s notorious early finishes, and that they had forwarded a request to the officials about an earlier start.

“It is a worry, because we always tend to lose time to bad light at the end of the day,” Smith said.

“I think it would be a shame to lose time when we could just start half-an-hour early.

“There is massive interest in this game, and we want to get as much time out there as possible.”

After months of success, it is now South Africa who are under the spotlight.

The Aussies have now turned them over in two successive Tests.

Smith admitted that the Test in Sydney feels an age ago, but he will do well to remember that it has been even longer since they beat Ponting’s charges in a Test.

TEAMS: South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Albie Morkel.

Australia (from): Simon Katich, Phil Hughes, Ricky Ponting (captain), Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Marcus North, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Peter Siddle, Nathan Hauritz, Bryce McGain, Andrew McDonald, Brett Geeves, Steve Magoffin.


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