South Africa hasnt got much time to get into the swing of things, with the second Test against Pakistan just one day away. Alviro Petersen, however, insists theres no trace of complacency in the camp. By ANT SIMS.
When South Africa and Pakistan take to the field for the second Test starting at Newlands on Thursday, there will have been a ten-day break since the last time the two sides had a taste of Test match action.
Such absences from the game can often lead to a dip in form and performance. It happened in England, when the Proteas had a similar lengthy gap between the first and the second Test and hit a snag in Headingley after a completely dominant performance at The Oval.
South African opener Alviro Petersen admits that they need to make sure they do not allow Pakistan to get away at all and the focus, right from the word go, will be on being dominant and relentless.
"We need to get into Test match mode and how long we take to get into that mode will be key. We don't want to allow them to get away. We talk about putting our peg in the ground and we want to do that on day one,” Petersen said.
The opener was one of the players who went back to his domestic franchise to get some time out in the middle, as the domestic four-day competition drew to a close over the weekend. He scored 119 for the Lions against the Warriors, and the 32-year old reckons the stint out in the middle was about more than simply getting a few runs. He also thinks the Warriors’ bowling attack gave him an extra advantage to prepare for the bowling attack Paksitan puts out.
"First of all, I wanted to get some batting in, and I also wanted to go back to my franchise to help the boys out. They were in the running for the trophy. The Warriors have a left-armer in Parnell, and an off spinner in Simon Harmer. Andrew Birch has done really well, too, so it's almost a similar attack to Pakistan,” he said.
His confidence might be high after notching up the runs, especially after a few hiccups with the bat in his last two outings, where he only managed 68 runs in three innings. The opener is not getting carried away, and knows that he will have to start from scratch come Thursday.
"When I walk out to bat in this Test match, I'll be on zero again, but the confidence is quite good and it's always nice to get some runs under your belt.”
The wicket has been a big talking point in the lead-up to the Test match. The pitch looks relatively dry and if the weather remains sunny and clear, there should be some spin and turn on offer for the spinners later on in the game. While in some years past, South Africa has struggled against spin, they’ve nullified the tweakers as of late.
When Sri Lanka came knocking over a year ago, Rangana Herath picked up ten sticks. Daniel Vettori managed just three when South Africa went to tour in New Zealand. Graeme Swann picked up just four wickets when South Africa visited England and Nathan Lyon, shamefully, picked up 12 sticks when South Africa toured Australia.
There certainly has been an improvement, and Saeed Ajmal has been rather ineffective against South Africa. The Proteas admit that they have thought out game plans for players who are hyped up, and Petersen insists that getting slack about opponents is definitely something the team avoids.
"I think we've done really well against spinners, especially sub-continent spinners. I think our biggest red flag is if we take teams lightly. When emphasis is put on certain players, we seem to do well. We don't want to get into casual mode and we want to be ruthless when we need to be,” Petersen said.
South Africa has been brilliant at getting itself out of sticky situations, and while the team might not have needed much of adjustment to their plans against New Zealand in the two Tests they played or in the first Test against Pakistan, Petersen says being able to adapt to conditions and different phases of the game is key for the side.
“When you have the right game plans - when you have plan A, B and even C - you can adjust your plan to where the game is.”
And the Proteas will have to adjust. There’s less pace and bounce at Newlands to help their bowlers obliterate their opponents, there’s been some good sunshine down in Cape Town, and there will be enough runs on offer to make it a tough time out for the bowlers.
Luckily for the South African contingent, their plans revolve around an arsenal of players who are so supremely talented that they are slowly but surely building a reputation as one of the most feared Test teams in the world. Whether they can keep that up and whether they can execute all those plans they so often speak about, only time will tell. DM
Photo: South Africa's Alviro Petersen hits a boundary off the bowling of Australia's Mitchell Starc during the first day's play of the third cricket test match, at the WACA in Perth November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer