Proteas face uphill battle
Abu Dhabi – All-round ability, adaptability and a never-say-die attitude.
That is what the South African cricket team are hoping to use to overcome the unknown in the coming month.
The team left for the United Arab Emirates on Sunday to play Pakistan and in Dubai in a series of five Twenty20 matches, five one-day internationals and three Tests.
Proteas captain Graeme Smith believes that a much tougher test awaits than the one against Zimbabwe, which was passed with flying colours.
While the South Africans achieved a record win of 272 runs in the last one-day game (and a series win of 3-0), Smith was a little worried.
His team achieved its biggest one-day win to date by posting 399-6 and then bowling the visitors out for just 127.
“You can’t really complain when you thrash your opponent like that and there were definitely several positives in the series,” said Smith.
“Even so, there are still one or two concerns because the game in Benoni was the first where our batting, bowling and fielding were up to standard.”
He added that it was difficult to measure yourself against a cricketing lightweight like Zimbabwe.
“They have improved a lot since the last time we played them and put us under pressure with the bat. But we realise that Pakistan will be a much tougher test, especially as we don’t know at all what to expect from the conditions there.”
Blistering heat, strange batting wickets and an unpredictable Pakistan team with its back to the wall are among the challenges awaiting the Proteas.
“We have not been in the Emirates for a long time and there are obviously a number of unknown factors. The first game already takes place two days after we land there and then a month full of cricket awaits us,” said Smith.
“We have shown in the past that we are an all-round and adaptable team, and that we will fight to the bitter end.”
The captain, who recently handed over the reins in Twenty20 cricket to Johan Botha, said he and coach Corrie van Zyl learned a lot from the series against Zimbabwe.
“Corrie and I were a little worried about the team’s depth prior to the tour, especially as far as the seam bowling is concerned. When Dale (Steyn), Jacques (Kallis) and Morné (Morkel) were injured, we hoped that one or two of the new players would be able to step into their shoes – and they did.”
The performance of Rusty Theron, in particular, would have made Smith and Van Zyl very happy.
“Rusty and other young players like Colin (Ingram) and David (Miller) showed that they are up to it after we had previously only seen them play at first-class level,” said Smith.
“At least we now know what they are capable of going forward and that there will be life for the team after Dale, Jacques and Morné.”