Pollock set to strengthen Proteas~~ challenge

Published: Thursday, March 23, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Durban:Shaun Pollock, South Africa's leading wicket-taker, is set to take his place in the South African team for the second Test against Australia at Kingsmead after bowling without any injury worries in the nets.

"He's fit and he will be playing," said team spokesman Gerald de Kock.

Pollock missed the first Test in Cape Town last week, which Australia won by seven wickets inside three days, with a back strain.

Pollock has taken a record 385 wickets in 97 Tests for South Africa and his skill and experience was missed in Cape Town on a pitch which gave inordinate help to the seam bowlers.

Durban resident Pollock has yet to play in a Test against Australia in his home town - and has only played in two home Tests over three series against the world champions. He broke down in the second Test of the 1996/97 series and did not play in any of the matches in 2001/02 because of injury.

The Kingsmead pitch is expected to offer pace and bounce, with batsmen likely to face a tough challenge on the first two days.

In recent years it has become easier for batting the longer a game goes on, but with overcast and humid weather expected it could offer something to the bowlers throughout.

After a batting failure in the first Test, with no home batsman reaching 50, South Africa will be seeking a major improvement to avoid surrendering the series with one match still to play - a fate which has befallen them in the previous two home series against Australia.

In the previous Test between the two sides in Durban, South Africa scored a record 340 in the fourth innings to win by five wickets in 2001/02, although it was a "dead rubber" third Test of a series in which Australia won the first two matches.

South African captain Graeme Smith said after the Cape Town Test that there was a belief in his side that they were closer than before to beating Australia, but there was not much evidence to back up his claim, with Australia superior in batting, bowling and catching.

Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne said Wednesday that he believed Australia had an edge over South Africa in Test cricket.

"I think our seamers exposed a few technical problems in their batting. Their middle order are always getting exposed because they are one or two down early."

Warne said Australia had superior players. "If you look at their seamers versus our batsmen, or the South African seamers versus our batsman, I think you're going to get the same result (as in the first Test)."

Warne criticised South Africa for the late watering of the Newlands pitch for the first Test.

"I've always been brought up to believe that you leave the groundsman to prepare the best wicket he can, and both sides play under the same conditions.

"If they want to wet the wicket and they don't want to bat last and face me, that's fine. But then they're going to have Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Michael Kasprowicz to deal with."

South African vice-captain Jacques Kallis said he expected a normal Kingsmead pitch.

"It's a wicket that goes around a bit and then becomes a good batting wicket," said Kallis, who discounted Warne's comments about South Africa's frailty.

"He's there for entertainment. He always comes up with statements, and the guys don't take too much notice of what he says. He creates a laugh or two in the change-room, but we don't worry about what he says."

South Africa are likely to field an all-seam bowling attack, with all-rounder Andrew Hall keeping his place at the expense of left-arm spinner Nicky Boje, while Australia are unlikely to change the team that won in Cape Town, where they opted for a three-man pace attack, with no place for leg-spinner Stuart MacGill.

Likely teams:

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

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

Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Billy Doctrove (both WIS). TV Umpire: Brian Jerling (RSA).

Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG).

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