South Africa must 'get off the wave'
The only thing standing between South Africa and victory in the second Test at Headingley, which would seal the series and take them to No. 1, is their state of mind, according to middle-order batsman Jacques Rudolph.
After their innings-and-12-run win at The Oval and a batting performance Allan Donald said "can't get any better," there would appear very few areas of improvement for the squad. But, having seen first-hand how the only place to go from the top is down, with England losing five out of nine Tests since becoming the world's best, Rudolph said South Africa have to be careful with how they respond to a big win.
"Our challenge will be to get off the wave of the first Test match, from a mental point of view," Rudolph said. "Obviously it was a convincing win for us but we are not too results orientated. We expect a strong fight back and we are prepared for what we are going to face."
South Africa have a good record at Headingley, having only lost one of the four Tests they have played here since readmission. In 1994, Peter Kirsten's century forced a draw, in 2003, Jacques Kallis' six wickets won the match and in 2008, AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince put on 212 runs for the fifth-wicket to give South Africa what proved a series-winning lead.
Rudolph believes it is the ideal place for them to hold on to their series lead. "From a team point of view, we can take quite a lot of confidence from how we played here in the past," he said.
With that much experience at the ground, including Rudolph's knowledge from five years of playing at Yorkshire, he believes the team will be properly prepared. While Rudolph said the information he is sharing with his team-mates is "not new," he hopes it can provide some important insight.
"There is a strong perception that Headingley is more a bowler's kind of wicket but in my experience here, especially when the sun is out, it's a really nice place to bat," he said. The average runs per wicket has increased from 27.91 in the 1980s to 34.18 in the 2000s, an indication that the green mamba is not as venomous as before, something Rudolph could confirm. "Once you get yourself in and get used to the swing and a little bit of seam movement you can get yourself in."
South Africa have squashed any speculation that will consider an all-pace attack with every member of the squad saying the XI is likely to be unchanged but Rudolph hinted that Imran Tahir, the legspinner, may have to change his approach.
"It won't be as dry as The Oval and it won't be as bouncy or turn as much. From a spinner's point of view, you've got to adapt your game plan and maybe be a little bit more containing as opposed to attacking."
JP Duminy's offspin may have a role to play, in addition to his batting at No.7, although he has not had much time in the middle doing. Duminy has scored a total of 94 runs in four innings on the tour and has bowled 27 overs across the four matches he has played.
Rudolph said too much should not be read into warm-ups because the rest of the preparation has gone well. "We are quite used to playing back to back matches and getting into a rhythm but here we have had a lot of time off and you have to find ways to keep yourself fresh.
"Personally, I find that in the warm up games the intensity is not really there because it is not as competitive as a Test match. But Gary Kirsten is quite strong on the fact that you've got to be aware of your own space and preparation. "
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent