Durban - Adaptability will be the focus for the Proteas in the unknown late winter conditions expected in the first Test against New Zealand starting at Kingsmead on Friday.
This is the first time a Test match will be played in Durban in August and adjusting game plans to suit the pace of play on the day will be the key with both bat and ball.
Proteas opening batsman, Dean Elgar, says the preparation has been intense over the last two days, with the squad set to simulate match situations with a middle practice at the Chatsworth Oval on Tuesday.
“The biggest thing for us is to try and adapt as soon as possible,” Elgar said to the media in Durban on Monday. “The wicket in the middle might be playing completely different to what we have experienced in the nets. We are experienced enough cricketers to adapt, adjust and to get used to the pace of play again. The facilities have been good, we have four days before the test so we will have a decent amount of preparation going into Friday.”
Elgar has had recent success at Kingsmead, where he scored his fourth test century against England in December last year. The 29 year-old averages 36.73 in 25 Tests for the Proteas, and is looking to continue with his good run at the top of the order with his new opening partner, Stephen Cook.
“It’s a good ground for me personally,” he said. “Especially going back to last season and the previous season from the domestic front. It’s a nice place to play cricket, I have always felt that it’s a wicket where you can get in and really score big. Personally, it has been a good hunting ground and hopefully it’s another ground where one can contribute and try to get a win for the team.
“Stephen has played 15 years of first-class cricket so he is well established in that (opening) position,” he said of his partner. “He has opened the batting 100 percent of his career so he is the man for the job. Hopefully we can continue doing good things for South Africa. We have only had one game opening together but we have opened for SA ‘A’ a few times so in that sense he’s not a foreign partner for me up the order. Hopefully we can have a bit of longevity in our partnership.”
Elgar says the Proteas are motivated to improve on their current sixth position on the ICC Test rankings, and will need to rebuild their status by keeping their game plans simple and solid.
“We’ve got to go back to the basics of our game,” he admitted. “In the last two seasons we haven’t done that well. We have had a lot of changes to the team from a selection point of view or injury so we have to get ourselves established again within our ranks and world cricket by ticking the boxes and doing the right things correctly.”