De Villiers wants unchanged Test side
AB de Villiers, South Africa's vice-captain, does not want any changes made to the team's starting XI for the second Test against England, which starts on Thursday. Despite strong performances from some of the reserves and the lack of batting time for Alviro Petersen and JP Duminy, de Villiers believes the team that won convincingly at The Oval should remain the same for Headingley.
"We won the first Test so whether or not some of us are in good or bad form we played well as a team. We would hate to unsettle that whole vibe that we had," De Villiers said after the drawn tour match against Worcestershire. "We felt in control the whole time, the guys played exceptionally well and we went one-nil up. It's really hard to change a winning formula, especially at Test level, when you are really comfortable with the 11 guys to go out there in the field. I would like to see the same team coming out in the next Test."
Although South Africa have a tendency to lapse after big win, and last won two consecutive Tests in a series against Bangladesh four years ago, de Villiers also thinks they don't have to do much altering to their gameplan. "We must just go out there and play as we did in the first Test match," he said. "It was good enough there and I can't see why it won't be good enough again."
Despite pushing for consistency, de Villiers has warned against complacency and said South Africa are motivated by what they have achieved so far to avoid it. "We know England are going to come out harder. We must put emphasis on the big moments of the game," he said. "We are expecting big pressure from them early on in the second Test and it's a matter of just fighting through it. We've worked hard to get the one-nil lead and we don't want to give it away."
After the two-day match at New Road, the spotlight will be on opening batsmen Petersen, who scored 10 and 11 in two innings, bringing his tally to 42 in England. He is the only one of the South Africa line-up who has yet to register a half-century on tour, with JP Duminy doing it at Taunton and Jacques Rudolph getting there at Canterbury.
Petersen's Test form had not taken the dip his current tour suggests, however. He last scored a century two matches ago, in Wellington, and de Villiers, as one of the leaders of team, is not concerned about his lack of runs so far. "He is a class player and so are the other guys who are not in form at the moment," he said. "It's a game of momentum: sometimes it's with you, sometimes it's not."
Most of the rest of the batsmen have not had enough opportunity to see whether the momentum de Villiers speaks about is on their side, including the man himself. Having taken over the wicketkeeping gloves after Mark Boucher's retirement, de Villiers' batting is an area being closely watched, because of his history of back spasms.
He did not bat The Oval but scored 80 against Worcestershire and kept for a brief period of time, and he said he is trying to marry the two elements of his game. "I don't believe the keeping is going to take anything out of my batting. I really like watching the ball and being part of the game the whole time," he said. "I can see different lines and I can pick up the bounce of the wicket quite quickly."
De Villiers dropped a catch off Imran Tahir and gave away eight byes when the legspinnner was bowling, which could be one of the "areas of concern" he said he had spent the last few days working on. He was careful not to isolate Tahir as the person he finds it most challenging to keep to and instead said he is getting better at being behind the stumps to the spinner.
"I like to think I pick him. I can definitely see his googly," he said. "At The Oval, there were big rough patches, especially to the left-handers and I found that difficult. I might be a little bit hard on myself though, because I think any keeper would have struggled there. I face him all the time in the nets and I just watch the ball as it comes out of his hand."
Although South Africa's future wicketkeeping plans have not been spoken about De Villiers said he "wants to become a better keeper and give us the option of maybe using me long term". Back-up gloveman Thami Tsolekile, who was nationally contracted in March, is also an option. He played at Worcestershire, where he kept wicket for most of the innings and took two catches.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent