South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg December 13, 2006

South Africa set to unleash pace battery



Micky Arthur hinted that South Africa would rely solely on Makhaya Ntini and his pace partners © Getty Images

South Africa have released Jacques Rudolph and Paul Adams to play for their franchises as they whittled the squad down to 12 for the opening Test which starts at the Wanderers on Friday. Ahead of an afternoon training session on Wednesday, Mickey Arthur, the coach, spoke of how his team would attack India with pace, on pitches that would aid a five-man fast-bowling line-up.

None of the first team played in the last round of domestic games, and Arthur said that they had been rested ahead of what will be an arduous season, with three Tests against India and three Tests and five ODIs against Pakistan ahead of their departure for the World Cup. "We've had a stiff training programme," he said. "The players needed some time away from the game. But they did work on some batting and bowling."

The South Africans warmed up with a game of Frisbee, and then some catching practice before heading across to the nets. As for the Indians, it was an off day, with only Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir opting for a net session outdoors.

South Africa were emphatic winners of the one-day series, and Arthur was confident that they could carry their dominant form into the Tests. "We want to continue the pattern that developed in the ODIs into the Tests," he said. "We didn't allow them to settle. We played well. It wasn't just that they played badly."

Nicky Boje's retirement, announced on Tuesday morning, was a slight setback, though it was unlikely that he would have played any part at the Wanderers, or at Kingsmead in Durban. "He's been a great servant of South African cricket," said Arthur by way of tribute. "We're likely to play a spinner in Cape Town."

Arthur admitted that the team management had already been in touch with the groundsmen, and intimated what sort of surfaces they were looking for in the Test series. "We want pitches with pace and bounce, and not too much grass," he said.

The recall of Paul Adams, barely a factor in domestic cricket over the past couple of seasons, was also addressed. "It's a long-term selection," said Arthur. "We need to know what he can offer. He has been very successful in Test cricket, and he offers something different. We need to see if there's any chance of reviving what has been a successful career."

Boje once won helped win a Test match against India at Bangalore (2000), while Adams, barring his six-wicket haul at Kanpur, hasn't enjoyed a great time against them. There's little doubt which man the Indians would rather face.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo