Botha spins South Africa some local advice
Graeme Smith often jokes that the South African team are so used to seeing countrymen in opposition camps all over the world that it would be more unusual if it was not the case. In Adelaide it is almost no different. For more than an hour after training on Tuesday, some of the squad were holed up in their dressing room enjoying the company of one of the local players. Johan Botha.
The offspinner has not been away that long, having relocated to South Australia at the beginning of the summer. But he will spend two seasons captaining them and opted out of his national contract to do so. Botha, like Mickey Arthur, is now just somebody that the South Africans used to know.
He could be a very useful person to know though. Given that none of the current bowling attack has played a Test in the city, Botha may share some important information. He has only played two first-class matches at the Adelaide Oval this season but found that bowlers enjoyed late assistance in both.
In South Australia's match against Tasmania in early October, a first-innings total of more than 400 was followed by two scores of less than 250. "That was a pitch that helped the seamers a lot," Botha said.
"But the second was a normal Adelaide wicket which sped up as the game went on. It was really good for the first three days and then assisted the spinners a bit. It was even a bit uneven for the quicks and then started reversing." In that match against Queensland both first innings yielded scores in excess of 400 and lower totals later on.
Mickey Arthur has also talked about Adelaide as a place where a match that looks headed for a draw lights up in the last two days. Botha said the real fun in that is that the late activity requires no extra coaxing out. "I don't think you really have to be more aggressive in the second innings, the wicket just starts helping you a bit and the game speeds up that way," he said. "The bounce of the pitch is true and the outfield is pretty quick."
That will come as good news to the frontline spinner South Africa select, most likely Imran Tahir. With South Africa's changing mindset to spin in recent times, Tahir has aIready become so key to their make-up that his absence in Brisbane was analysed in great detail. Botha was one of the armchair experts.
"It was actually a surprise for me when South Africa went in with four seamers in Brisbane," he said. "They always say you can't just pick an attack for the first day, you've got to pick an attack for day four and five as well and they did miss Immi late in the game.
"He should play here and they will probably go with him again in Perth. It's going to be quite hot in the lead up to and during the match, so it will definitely deteriorate here. The quicks also can't bowl all day in the heat. It should be a good match to watch because the bowlers are going to have to work hard."
Tahir missed out on the chance to bowl at Shane Warne's favourite ground, the Gabba. Botha said leaving him out Adelaide should be out of the question because of what he is capable of and what the ground can do for his career.
"Immi has got a lot of variation. And it's also a handful to get in against him," he said. The current South African attack is the best it's probably ever been. I hope Immi does play and he does get a good haul, I think he needs that."
Although Tahir has been around the Test squad for the last year and played in most of their matches, his numbers have not been as eye-catching as the hype. In 10 Tests, Tahir has managed 26 wickets and had to operate in the shadows of the pacemen. Botha hopes that will change in Adelaide.
"People are always talking about whether he is doing the business. I hope he can pick up five or six wickets here so people will leave his spot alone," Botha said, while sympathising with the pressure Tahir must be feeling.
"For anyone, you just want that one big performance to settle your own nerves and everyone else's. In any new team you want to put in a big performance, even if you have played 100 first-class games you still want to put in a big performance to show everyone you've still got it."
Botha is waiting for the same to happen to him in the four-day game with South Australia. He will have the chance when they play Victoria from Friday and will be keeping on eye on Tahir's progress from Melbourne.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent