Sri Lanka in SA
Hudson seeks 'mirror' display
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Andrew Hudson (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Proteas, fresh from their three-day demolition of Sri Lanka in the first Test at Centurion, will be expected to keep their collective feet firmly on the throttle in the follow-up game at Kingsmead from Boxing Day.
They have developed an unwanted reputation - especially on home soil, strangely - for failing to string together successive performances of genuine majesty over the past few seasons.
So it was little wonder that national selection chief Andrew Hudson told Sport24 on Monday of his wish to see a “mirror performance” from Graeme Smith’s team in Durban.
The portents for that must be pretty good because, as he concurred, most of the players will be relishing protracted involvement at last in one specific format of the game for a few weeks after a stop-start kind of season thus far.
Hudson would not commit himself to saying so – “we have a 14-man squad at the moment” - but reading between the lines, changes to the XI which brutally quelled the Lankan challenge at SuperSport Park seem highly unlikely.
“There were several pleasing aspects about (Centurion),” he said. “Consistent winning of sessions, good displays of application ... lots of good stuff in terms of Test cricket principles.”
The “extra” players in the Proteas’ plans right now, for both Durban and the final Test in Cape Town over New Year, are Alviro Petersen, Marchant de Lange and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the last-named seamer having been added after the first Test now that he is fit again.
While De Lange and Tsotsobe’s mere presence ought to be enough to remind Morne Morkel of the importance of lifting his presently erratic game at Kingsmead, the traditional healthy bounce at the venue plays to Morkel’s back-of-a-length strengths.
Hudson said the national team’s brains trust would probably name the XI the night before the Durban Test starts, enabling all three players who don’t crack the nod to return to their franchises.
“There is a round of SuperSport Series games starting on the 27th so that would leave time for those not required in the Test to go and get first-class game time.”
The matches are: Cobras v Warriors (Paarl), Knights v Dolphins (Bloemfontein) and Titans v Lions (Benoni).
The first-named fixture, at a venue where faster bowlers normally have to work hard for their wickets, would be an ideal opportunity for Tsotsobe, in particular, to brush off cobwebs after his period out of action and stay a viable fringe candidate for the Test side.
Meanwhile commentator and former national captain Kepler Wessels has told ESPNCricinfo that he felt the grass-covering at SuperSport Park was “a little bit excessive” although he still expected some assistance for the pace bowlers at both remaining Test grounds.
Two of three Test matches thus far in South Africa this season, of course, have ended within three days.
Kingsmead can be a handful for batsmen if it is notably humid and overcast, but also a belter for them at times when the sun beats down - CSA bosses may quietly hope for more of the latter phenomenon from Boxing Day, enabling them to achieve four or five days of holiday gate-takings.