Australia in SA

AB, Ashwell primed to play Oz

2011-11-07 14:20
Ashwell Prince (Gallo)

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - The Proteas’ batting line-up to tackle Australia in the first Test at Newlands here from Wednesday appears to have taken shape.

It seems reasonably clear that AB de Villiers, after seeming more likely a few days ago to only be considered for the second Test at the Wanderers after his hand injury, is going to get every chance to confirm his readiness instead for the first encounter.

Monday’s Proteas press conference all but cleared up that Ashwell Prince will occupy a middle-order position, at the expense of JP Duminy, with De Villiers also coming into the mix if he has no setbacks at nets in the lead-up to the Test.

Prince was the national side’s representative at the briefing, and when asked by Sport24 whether he had been told he would turn out, he replied: “They haven’t announced the final XI yet, but I expect to play.”

Significantly, he also went into some detail about the situation of attacking kingpin De Villiers: “As far as AB is concerned, he had a match yesterday for the Titans but unfortunately for him he got out in (unusual) fashion (ruled as obstructing the field after getting to 12 – Sport24).

“He’d have liked a bit more time at the crease, of course, but I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s just got to make the best of today and tomorrow with his preparation, but he’s a world-class batsman.

“Watching him in the nets today he didn’t seem to have lost anything – the timing is there. That first half hour at the crease (against the Aussies) will be tough, and crucial for him to settle himself down.”

So it seems that the Proteas will go in with a top six made of captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Rudolph, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, De Villiers and Prince in that order.

Prince boasts a first-innings knock of 150 in a winning cause the last time South Africa played the Aussies at the ground in a dead-rubber Test three seasons back – Australia had already gone 2-0 up to secure the series -- in the stop-gap role of opening batsman.

“At the time we had (disruption) in the team ... Graeme got injured and unfortunately Neil McKenzie went through a bad patch and we ended up with two new opening batsmen (Prince and debutant Imraan Khan – Sport24).

“But this (the middle order) is where I’ve batted all my life and much more the role I’m accustomed to. I’m also much more comfortable with it.”

The 34-year-old left-hander admitted that it had been tough to stomach occasionally being a yo-yo man in the Test side, or subjected to unfamiliar responsibilities.

“Sometimes it’s a bit disappointing that you always have to look over your shoulder. But I feel I’ve done enough in the past and my form coming into the Test is good, so I feel confident.

“It’s nice to have had some four-day games under the belt ... a few others like Jacques Rudolph also put some (SuperSport Series) runs on the board so it’s good for the two of us, who haven’t been part of the shorter format for South Africa this season.”

Asked about what he expected of the Newlands pitch, Prince said: “It looks a little bit soft at the moment; hopefully it can continue to get some good sun on it -- the forecast ahead is a bit dodgy, though.

“It’s usually a good wicket at Newlands; starts out a bit softer on day one up to lunch and from tea time or so it becomes very good for batting.”

Prince also spoke glowingly of Vernon Philander, the Cape Cobras’ fast-medium bowler who may make his Test debut on his home ground.

“Over the last three or four years Vernon has been the outstanding seam bowler in domestic cricket; his record speaks for itself with something like 260 wickets at 19 or 20 runs per wicket so that’s a phenomenal record.

“He’s a bowler who is always at you; he doesn’t bowl many balls that you can leave. He comes close to the stumps, and hits the seam. He’s the type who is always in your face and asking questions.

“It’s great for him, if he plays, that his first Test would be at Newlands. Knowledge of conditions, the ground, the run-ups ... all those things that are important to bowlers, he’ll be comfortable with.”

Could Philander do the holding job if necessary?

“That role depends on how we go with selection. If we go with the more ‘attacking’ spinner (Imran Tahir) then that role would probably have to be shared between Vernon and someone like Jacques Kallis.

“But guys like Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are also capable of playing a slightly different role if required. They’re experienced and world-class bowlers and they can do more than just run in and try to knock people’s heads off.

“If we need a disciplined spell they can do that.”

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