England in SA

England face Newlands test

2010-01-02 18:44
Andrew Strauss (File)

Cape Town - England captain Andrew Strauss believes his side will take nothing for granted when it looks to wrap up the series against South Africa in the third Test which starts on Sunday.

Although it has a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series, Strauss said England would not repeat the mistake it made against Australia earlier this year - of talking up its chances of a series victory just because it was in the lead.

England beat Australia at Lord's but then lost by an innings at Headingley to allow the opposition to draw level, before Strauss's side eventually won the Ashes series 2-1.

"If you pat yourself on the back ... you can get beaten pretty quickly. We need to be ruthless ... when ahead," Strauss said on Saturday. "We shouldn't have been talking about winning the (Ashes) series, we should have been talking about winning the first half-hour (of the next match).

"You don't win a Test match on day one, but it's very important to start well so that the opposition don't get on top of you. I've seen enough teams losing one week and winning the next to know nothing is guaranteed."

England has a good chance of going into the match at Newlands with a team unchanged from the one which beat the host nation by an innings in Durban.

Paul Collingwood, who dislocated his left index finger in Durban, batted without apparent discomfort in the nets on Saturday, and barring last-minute complications should bat as usual at No 5.

Looking ahead, Strauss said: "It's one of the great occasions, playing a Newlands Test. It's a wicket that offers the bowlers something, whether it's the seamers on day one or the spinners at the back end of the match. It's a result wicket ... we will have to bat well."

For South Africa, the most likely change will be in the bowling ranks, where veteran Makhaya Ntini could be dropped for Friedel de Wet, who took five wickets on his debut in the first test in Pretoria.

Dropping the iconic Ntini would be a controversial move, as he has been a key member of the team for a decade and is vital to the transformation of the game in racial terms in South Africa. In terms of on-field performance, though, Ntini had a below-average 2009, taking only 13 wickets in six tests at an average of 57.00.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith insisted the team was behind him as it prepared for a potentially decisive contest. "Yes, no doubt," he said. "If I didn't feel that, I would walk away. I've seen two England captains walk away in my time. I'm very comfortable in the job ... if someone felt otherwise, so be it.

"I'm pretty comfortable with what we've achieved in the past couple of years, and I continually reassess my position even when we are winning," the big left-hander said. Included in the list of recent achievements are away test series wins in England and Australia in a six-month period in the second half of 2008.

As for his own performance, Smith reckoned it would not be affected by the high stakes at Newlands.

"It took me two or three years to get a grasp of the job," he said. "I can't say I'm feeling any extra pressure in terms of the job ... I'm just focused on being the best captain I can be.

Squads

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Friedel de Wet, JP Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn

England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Michael Carberry, Paul Collingwood, Mark Davies, Steve Davies, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright

Umpires: Tony Hill (New Zealand) and Daryl Harper (Australia)

TV umpire: Aleem Dar (Pakistan)

Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)

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