South Africa and England get back to business on the cricket field on Thursday. One team is playing to win the series, while the other side is fighting to stay in it, and there’s no time for complacency from either. By ANT SIMS.
When England and South Africa resume hostilities on Thursday, the pressure will be on the visitors to come out firing on all cylinders. After getting their tour off to an emphatic start in the first Test, South Africa now have to do it all over again, but keeping their momentum after a thunderous start has been something of a concern for the Proteas.
Last year, when Sri Lanka visited their shores, South Africa won the first Test comprehensively, but lost the second one, and it’s a pattern which has repeated itself over the years. Since 1981, there have only been two drawn Tests at Headingley, and while there is some concern about the weather, the wicket should yield a result – a potential series-winning result for South Africa.
The team has had some time off, with a two-day tour match against Worcester being the only cricket they’ve played since then. AB de Villiers got a chance to bat in the match, scoring 80, while Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel both did their bit with the ball. JP Duminy also had a chance to bat, but struggled – scoring five and two in South Africa’s innings – and believes that the time off has been good for the team.
"We're all in a very good space; we've had a lengthy break since the last Test and we had a good outing in our second tour match. We have some time to practice before the second Test starts, which is good for us,” said Duminy.
The 28-year-old has been in and out of the South African set-up since making his debut in Australia, but has now been given a chance to prove himself again, since Mark Boucher has been forced out with a serious eye injury. He’ll be batting one place below his usual number six spot, and Duminy says he’s looking forward to the challenge.
"Batting at number seven is a bit lower than where I am used to. For me it's all about sussing out how to make the partnerships with the guys down the order work.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge. I didn't expect to play the first Test, but I have a chance to prove myself now,” Duminy said.
England, still ranked number one in the world, cannot afford to lose the Test, as this would mean they are toppled from their perch. Their bowlers looked out of sorts in the first Test, their batsmen let them down, and it’s unlikely that a team of their stature will allow such mistakes to be repeated. This is certainly at the back of the South Africans’ minds, but Duminy insists it’s not something they are focusing on.
"I'm sure England are going to come back hard at us, but we're trying to stay focused on where our preparations are, instead of focusing on our opposition too much,” said the left-hander.
It’s going to be a stern test for South Africa, who could win the series and go top of the ICC Test rankings with a win in Leeds. Some might think that this would mean harder and more intense preparation, but Duminy insists the team is sticking to their guns – a recipe which served them well in the first game.
"We need to keep on making sure that we're covering our bases and putting in the hard yards, just like we did going into this series. We're staying focused and we took some time off to help us refresh both mentally and physically,” Duminy added. DM
Photo: South Africa's Dale Steyn leads the team off the field after South Africa won the first cricket test match against England at the Oval cricket ground in London July 23, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown