South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day March 17, 2006

Nel still upbeat but Hayden smells victory

Andre Nel: 'I was catching sweet all week, I dropped Ricky again but luckily this time is cost us 15 runs' © Getty Images
Andre Nel, the pick of South Africa's bowlers on the second day at Cape Town, is upbeat about their prospects in the first Test. "If we can get 200 runs ahead, we are well in the game. If we bowl as well as we bowled today we have a real chance."

Nel beat the bat and caused problems for all the batsmen without much luck - he only took 2 for 45. But he knows how important his role will be defending any target. "Pace will be more difficult than spin - it is a two-paced wicket, some stop, some go through. Then again, maybe Nicky Boje can play a big part."

His disappointment at losing three wickets before the close was clear, as was his reaction to the crowd: "Our crowd are quite quiet in comparison to the Australian crowd - I miss the Australian crowd, I need them to fire me up." But he was pleased that his dropped catch - Ricky Ponting on 61 - didn't cost the team dear: "I was catching sweet all week, I dropped Ricky again but luckily this time is cost us 15 runs, not 100." Nel dropped Ponting at Melbourne, when South Africa toured Australia, and he went on to score 117.

Matthew Hayden was disappointed to miss out on his 26th Test century after doing a lot of hard work in tough conditions. "It is frustrating but I rode my luck as well over the course of the day, I was solid but it was the conditions we faced.

"We would have liked some more runs, but it is a hard wicket to start on for batsmen and, while we are disappointed, we have a 100-run lead and with three wickets down we are looking at a pretty solid position."

"There is a lot of sideways movement. This morning was as hard batting as we've had in Test cricket for a while. All the seamers had a good day, they offered that lateral movement - unless you were looking to play defensive shots you felt vulnerable."

He added that he was surprised by the quality of the wicket and thinks it leaves Australia in a good position for to push for victory. "I thought it would quicken up and there'd be less movement, but as the day went on it still offered seam movement. I'd suggest those conditions will remain through the course of this match. We have an important three wickets.

"On this track we don't want to chase 300, that's for certain, we are off to a good start, we bowled in some good areas tonight and if it is anything like today, tomorrow morning will offer some challenges for their batting."

With no longer being part of the Australian one-day set-up, Hayden is delighted with his return to the international scene. "I have had two months where I haven't played at this level and straight away I am really enjoying the opportunity and experience. The partnership today was a beauty. I have been playing a lot of four-day cricket so that is an advantage to prepare that way."

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer