SA vs Australia showdown at St George’s Park poised to be a cracker
Given the goings-on this week‚ the second Test between South Africa and Australia is bound to be a cracker starting at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
After all the he said‚ he saids this week‚ the teams will finally get down to playing some cricket again.
It has been a short turnaround since South Africa lost the first Test in Durban on Sunday but there has been 24-hour coverage on the unseemly Quinton de Kock-David Warner controversy since it broke on Monday.
It has had the cricket world and social media at odds this week and no matter what they tell you about the teams' management meeting with officials to restore some calm on Thursday‚ there will still be some pent-up aggression waiting to be offloaded.
It would be naïve to think any different.
But it is how the players are able to channel that aggression that will be key to all the players making it through the series without any more demerit points being slapped around.
At his captain’s press conference on Thursday‚ Proteas captain Faf du Plessis admitted the affair had been distracting but not totally unexpected.
“I think it’s the norm for me when you play against Australia. It’s just about getting us ready for a Test match‚" he said.
"It’s a big game for us. We have to make sure that our cricket does the talking.
"We’ve spoken behind [closed] doors about lessons learnt. We got to make sure that we get back in the series at one-all.”
One-nil down in a four-match series is not a disaster but it certainly has the ability to morph into one from two-nil down and Du Plessis said his bowlers are raring to have another go at the Aussies.
“I suppose it’s fun and games. Credit to you guys to making it a little more spicy‚” he said with smile to the gathered media.
“But certainly the mood in the camp hasn’t changed much. Our style of play will be the same.
"Yes‚ it does make the blood pump a little bit because it makes you want to get back on the field and perform against a quality Australian team. For me‚ it’s what make you best as a player.”
To achieve a victory‚ Du Plessis says his best batsmen need to front up.
“It’s very important. It’s always important.
"I’ll be the first guy to say that in big series you want your big players to stand up.
“There’s no doubt about the fact that the big players didn’t perform in the first Test and that’s the reason why Australia won it.
"So‚ It’s as simple as that for me. It’s not about relying on youngsters to perform. For me it’s about everyone stepping up to the plate.
"But‚ especially in big games‚ you need your big players to score runs.”
Du Plessis said they have discussed team combinations but it is unlikely they will change the line-up too much‚ if at all.
“It’s obviously between Temba and Theunis. We weighing up where Temba is coming from a long injury and a lay-off and whether he comes back into the team.
“He’s batting pain-free. It’s just the power in the hand that he’s still getting back. The power of the hand is probably at 80 percent‚” said the captain.
Australian skipper Steve Smith knows South Africa will be determined to bounce back strongly.
“They are a very good side and they probably hurting after losing the first Test and no doubt they will come back hard in this one‚” said Smith.
Like Du Plessis‚ he said his team are ready to get back to playing cricket.
“We’re all good now. Obviously‚ there’s been a fair bit going on the last couple of days but the guys trained really well yesterday.
"We played a really good game in Durban.
"It probably hasn’t been spoken about much. We played some good cricket and hopefully we can keep it up this week.”
Asked if he was overly-concerned about getting out to part-time spinner South Africa Dean Elgar again‚ Smith joked‚ and said: “I don’t think he really gives me nightmares.
"But yeah‚ he’s got my wicket a couple of times . . . unfortunately. But you got to get out to someone don’t you.
"Look‚ if he bowls to me in this game‚ I’ll perhaps be a little bit more watchful.”