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December 13, 2009
Ashley Giles, England's selector and former left-arm spinner, had urged England to stand up the South Africans when the Test series gets underway on Wednesday.
Giles, who faced South Africa 10 times in his 54-match career, warned: "They're tough to beat on their own territory and will try to bully you a little bit and push you around. You have to go toe to toe with these guys."
The South African management were vocal in their criticism earlier in the tour, with Mickey Arthur publicly questioning England's tactics in the Twenty20 series. Arthur labelled England as 'predictable' and suggested they had shown no faith in Adil Rashid, the young leg-spinner, when he was taken off after a solitary over cost 25 in the second Twenty20 contest.
But Giles commended England's management and said the atmosphere in the dressing room was very positive as they prepare for a tough Test series.
"The team spirit is fantastic, and the work ethic has been second to none on any England tour I've seen before. Everyone has a role and supports one another. That's a pretty good start and means you've got a very good chance.
"It is going to be a tough challenge, but the pressure is on them as well. They have just lost the one-day series here. We'll take confidence from that going into the Test series - and we beat them here last time as well."
Giles admits the selectors face a difficult choice deciding on the balance of the team but sees England's plans remaining flexible as the series unfolds.
"It's the age-old battle over the decision whether you play five or six batters. The decision really falls upon the two Andys. I'm here to give my opinion, or to sort out any strife there was between them, which I just can't see there being. It's a tough decision to make, but it's a long series - a game of chess as well and a tough battle against a very good South African team."
England completed their final warm-up fixture on Saturday with Kevin Pietersen making important runs, after his earlier struggles for form, and the bowlers getting a good workout as the home side showed some fight with the bat. Giles was pleased with England's preparation and is confident Pietersen has turned the corner from his bad spell.
"Overall, I think England got a lot out of the four days in East London. The batsmen had a lot of time in the middle. Kevin Pietersen looked much happier, much more solid. His record is fantastic, he has been one of the rocks in the batting line-up since his introduction into the side, so it's important to everyone to see KP both happy and getting runs."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper