Kirsten happy with South Africa preparations
South Africa will start their two-day tour match against Somerset on Monday with two members of the squad carrying injuries. Opening batsman Alviro Petersen has an inflamed toe on his left foot, an injury sustained while jogging, and fast bowler Marchant de Lange has not fully recovered from lower-back spasms picked up in the Twenty20 tri-series in Zimbabwe last month. However, both could feature in the match at a later stage as the teams will be allowed to field more than 11 players.
"We don't want to risk either Alviro or Marchant but we will see how they feel as the match goes on," Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa's team manager, told ESPNcricinfo. Both are expected to play in the second fixture of the tour against Kent, which starts on Friday.
With only five days of match time before the first Test, Gary Kirsten, South Africa's head coach, was unperturbed by the lack of cricket before his team starts their quest to dethrone England as world No. 1. Kirsten said the hours of practice required before a series is not an "exact science", adding that South Africa's players believe the time they will get "should be sufficient", if the weather holds. The team were forced to have an indoor session at Taunton after arriving on Saturday but trained outside in the sun - which the locals claimed showed itself for the first time in two weeks - on Sunday.
"We know we have got to get our intensity up as soon as we can," Kirsten said. "We've got a really experienced team and a good side that has been here and had success before. It's about who can win those big moments; that's how the series will be decided. Where we might lose out on match intensity, we will pick up on mental freshness."
Kirsten's emphasis on training the mind was emphasised by the squad's recent camp in Switzerland, conducted under the guidance of adventurer Mike Horn. Graeme Smith described it as a mentally challenging experience and said that for some players it had been the "toughest three days of their careers". The squad engaged in activities such as climbing mountains and Kirsten said it helped them learn about each other.
"It's something we wanted to work hard on as a team. We can put ourselves through some challenges, not necessarily cricket challenges, just to test us a little bit as a unit," he said. "Everyone pulled together and the stronger guys pulled the weaker guys through. We feel that when you pull a team together and tighten a unit and go through those challenges it will help in those pressure moments where it counts."
Thinking outside the box is what Kirsten hopes will give South Africa that "10% tweak that will take us to the top of the pile". Having already got India there in Tests, Kirsten is hoping to replicate his success with his home country and feels that the preparation they have done will stand them in good stead to achieve that. "I am very happy with where we are at the moment," Kirsten said. "The guys aren't letting up, they want more."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent