South Africa to test Indians with pace barrage

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:South Africa captain Graeme Smith has warned India to expect a trial by fire in the first Test tomorrow.

The South Africans have omitted spinners from their squad, confirming that they will attack the Indians with an all-pace attack on the traditionally fast and bouncy Wanderers pitch.

If Smith is to be taken at face value, India's batsmen will take on an attack that is reaching top form.

''It's a big call to make here and now but our attack is really hitting its straps,'' Smith told a news conference today.

Smith was particularly impressed with fast bowler Dale Steyn, who has recovered from a quadriceps strain in time for the first Test of South Africa's home campaign.

''He (Steyn) adds a new dimension,'' Smith said. ''(Andre) Nel is hitting 140 kilometres an hour, Makhaya (Ntini) is hitting 140, but Dale is up there at 150.

''He gets the ball to swing at pace, which is always a huge asset.'' In South Africa's last Test at the Wanderers, against New Zealand in May, Steyn took three for 43 and four for 91.

Narrow cracks were visible on the pitch today and if they widen significantly they will add to the challenge.

''There are always cracks at the Wanderers,'' Smith said.

''With the heat around they will play a role, and it's been hot here for a while.'' India's frailty against fast bowling on responsive pitches was starkly exposed in the one-day series, which South Africa won 4-0.

India have recalled Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman for the Test series in an attempt to add steel to their brittle batting order.

Smith said Ganguly would ''add a bit of hardness and maybe some fighting spirit'', but he remained confident that his team could handle anything the visitors threw at them.

''India have some world class performers, but there are some guys in our side who've knocked over big names in other sides and they are looking forward to doing so again,'' he said.

India's 12-member team: R Dravid (C), VVS Laxman (VC), MS Dhoni (WK), SC Ganguly, W Jaffer, KD Karthik, A Kumble, IK Pathan, V Sehwag, VRV Singh, S Sreesanth, SR Tendulkar


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