Proteas get feet back on ground for Tests

Published: Thursday, March 16, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Cape Town:South Africa's euphoria after their victory in what has been hailed as the greatest One-day game of all time was officially declared over by coach Mickey Arthur ahead of the first Test against Australia starting at Newlands.

"We spent the morning talking about it," said Arthur Tuesday. "We had our psychologist in, reiterating team values and getting our feet back on the ground."

Arthur said, though, that the effect on the team of chasing down a world record total to clinch a One-day series against Australia in Johannesburg Sunday, scoring 438 for nine after Australia made 434 for four, was "huge."

He said it had given meaning to his and captain Graeme Smith's commitment to "brave cricket."

Arthur said: "The guys had to be brave and it's shown them what can actually be achieved. We'll probably never recapture that moment but the fear of failure went out the window on Sunday for our batters."

The South African players had their first practice Tuesday in preparation for the start of a three-Test series Thursday. "Whatever has gone before us on Sunday is now officially over," said Arthur. "It's time to concentrate on Test disciplines."

South Africa have two major injury worries, with veteran opening bowler Shaun Pollock and fast bowling firebrand Andre Nel both on the doubtful list.

Arthur said he was hopeful that Pollock would recover from a back strain that kept him out of Sunday's match, although he did not participate in Tuesday's practice.

"He'll practise tomorrow (Wednesday) and we'll decide on Thursday. He is better and he's improving daily."

The South African coach was less sure about Nel, who missed the last three One-day matches after suffering a recurrence of a foot injury, which caused him to return early from a tour of Australia in January.

"We'll need to watch him carefully. He'll pass a fitness test and bowling ten overs won't be a problem, but for him to bowl 20 overs in a day might be an issue."

Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist said he did not believe the tourists would be adversely affected by Sunday's shock result. "We'll be fine. It won't affect the way we prepare for a Test match."

Gilchrist pointed out there would be five or six changes to the Australian team, with experienced players like Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer returning as Test specialists.

"Those are big names in world cricket and they're on our side," he said.

Gilchrist acknowledged that South Africa's hopes would have been lifted by their successful run chase on Sunday. "They'll take a lot of confidence from it but so did we. We scored 400 as well. It was an extraordinary game."

Australia seem likely to opt for two leg-spinners, with Warne and Stuart MacGill bowling together, on a pitch which seemed unusually dry, with several cracks, two days before the match.

South Africa have only one spinner, left-armer Nicky Boje, who took 24 wickets in three domestic first-class matches leading into the Test.

Arthur said he did not believe Warne posed an insurmountable threat. "We had game plans in Australia and the guys played him very well."

Australia won a three-match home series 2-0 earlier this season but South Africans believe the result was skewed by a declaration in the third and final Test in Sydney.

South Africa were in a strong position before rain washed out most of the fourth day.

In an attempt to get a win to share the series, South Africa set Australia a target of 287 in 76 overs, which the home side achieved with eight wickets to spare.


South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Mark Boucher, Nicky Boje, AB de Villiers, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Garnett Kruger, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph.

Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Michael Kasprowicz, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Shane Warne.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), Jeremy Lloyds (ENG)

Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG).

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