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Firdose Moonda in Johannesburg
November 15, 2011
Of the three coaches involved in South Africa's new set up, it is Allan Donald who stands out. While Russell Domingo quietly goes about his tasks and Gary Kirsten still learns to relax without the constant glares of Indian cricket shining on him anymore, Donald approaches his occupation with all the enthusiasm and effervescence of a youngster, eager to perform on the international stage himself.
Donald is relishing coaching in the country of his birth, having been overlooked by them in the past. Donald previously worked in England, Zimbabwe and New Zealand but throughout his travelling assignments, made no secret of his desire to come home. He was on the brink of confirming a full-time arrangement with New Zealand when Kirsten came calling and Donald agreed to take the post.
A part of him hoped that it would be present him the opportunity to achieve things on the field, with the national team, that he did not in his playing days. That part emerged on Tuesday at the Wanderers, when Donald was asked how he felt when he watched his attack skittle Australia for 47 last week.
"The guys went out and did something unbelievably special at Newlands, something a lot of people dream about," Donald said, with a wistful look in eyes. "To be at the forefront of something extremely special and to beat Australia on South African soil would be the pinnacle."
That word - pinnacle - expresses Donald's desire to do what South Africa have never done before: register a home series win against Australia since readmission. When Donald was playing, Australia were at their best and he was used to being dominated by them. Now, the chance to overturn that trend is here.
"Gary has always mentioned small steps and we are one Test match away from hopefully something very special," Donald said. "We are going to focus on what we have to do and do it well to try and win this Test series here in South Africa. It's not been done before for a very long time."
With South Africa's bowling appearing more incisive than Australia's in the first Test, Donald has been given much of the credit for their win. He accepted it reluctantly and modestly. "People in the street might be saying, 'What a bowling coach,' but what a load of rubbish," he joked. "It's not rocket science what happened in that second innings. We did a job and it was freakish how it turned out."
Australia were reduced to 21 for 9 by what Donald calls "aggressive lengths" bowled by South Africa. He has warned his bowlers not to expect a collapse of that nature again, especially on a totally different pitch at the Wanderers." I don't think we will see another pitch as friendly as the Newlands one," Donald said. "At the Wanderers, you've got to be fairly spot on, there's a bit of bounce and a bit of carry that keeps the bowlers interested but if you do tend to get loose on this pitch, batters will be able to score square of the wicket on both sides."
The Wanderers track is traditionally known to be good for Test cricket, and Donald expects it to provide a tough contest between bat and ball. "Yesterday, it looked a belter of a track, maybe slightly on the soft side," he said. "He [Chris Scott, Wanderers groundsman] has flooded it to stop it from cracking."
The change of strip could mean a rethink for South Africa, who went into the first Test with three frontline seamers and an attacking spinner. Dale Steyn and debutant Vernon Philander had outstanding returns, Morne Morkel found his form in the second innings and said he hopes to maintain it.
"It's always a bit of a judgement move from one-day to Test cricket. The margin is sometimes very small," Morkel said. "The timing and rhythm wasn't as I would have liked in the first innings."
South Africa's only other seam option is Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who missed Tuesday's training with flu, but the change could come with left-arm spinner Paul Harris, who may play a containing role. It would mean Imran Tahir might sit out, after being used sparingly at Newlands on a paceman's wicket. Donald was not alarmed by the legspinner's lack of immediate impact. "It's sometimes very difficult for a spinner when you come onto a wicket like that, that is responsive to seam bowling. More often than not, you will see a guy like that not bowl very much," he said. "Imran, if he does play, will come in and do a job for us, there is no question. When the time is right and the surface is right, he will definitely play a massive part."
While South Africa appear spoilt for choice, Australia have concerns, with Mitchell Johnson, who wowed on his last visit to the country in 2009, appearing flat. Donald said he noticed Johnson was not his usual self. "He is a bit slingy at the moment," Donald said. "That's for the Aussies to sort out. He is a match-winner so he will find a way of getting back. He is not in the team just to make up the numbers."
Donald also had words of warning for his side, about Australia's bowling and their team as a whole. "We expect them to bounce back heavily," he said. He would know.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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