van Zyl backs Harris to play
South Africa are unlikely to go into the second Test against India in Durban with an all-pace attack, according to coach Corrie van Zyl. "Experience has told us that we will most probably have a spinner in the line-up for a Test match in Durban."
Despite a seamer-friendly pitch at Kingsmead, which Graeme Smith said was the greenest he had seen for a while, van Zyl wants insurance in case the pitch flattens. "You never know what the weather is like, whether it will get really hot." That virtually guarantees Paul Harris his place in the starting XI, again in a containing role, and means South Africa will use three quicks.
The position of the third seamer, which was being talked up as a contest between Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell, has also been decided on. "We've made our decision but we are not going to tell you," van Zyl said. Tsotsobe played in the first Test and was targeted by the Indian batsmen, but is likely to get the nod. He bowled more than Parnell during practice this week, an indication that the younger left-armer may end up carrying the drinks.
The scene is set for a re-match between South Africa's bowlers and India's batsmen, one that the hosts won convincingly in Centurion. van Zyl was particularly impressed with the spearhead of his attack, Dale Steyn, who reached speeds over 145 kph in that match. "Steyn bowled some really fast spells in the previous test. The pitch will not determine how quickly he will run in."
With much of the build-up centred around the pitch and the assistance it will provide for the bowlers, once again, the toss is being viewed as a crucial element in the contest. While MS Dhoni thinks that it could have a major impact on this green wicket, van Zyl talked it down. "I don't think the toss is going to be the most important thing, it depends on weather conditions." Durban has seen three days of sunshine but clouds rolled in on Christmas day. Overcast conditions are forecast for most of the match, which will be ideal for both swing and bounce.
Despite the obvious home advantage and the emphatic way in which South Africa beat India five days ago, van Zyl does is aware of South Africa's recent record in Durban, which has seen them fail to notch up a win in two years. The difference between this year and the last two years is that South Africa are coming into the Boxing Day Test off a win and have momentum on their side.
"There's a lot of talk about momentum and it's important but it's just there until the next game," van Zyl said. That next game starts tomorrow and although the hosts have the impetus, van Zyl indicated that South Africa respect India enough to understand that they shouldn't take their advantage for granted. "Momentum is important, but not that important. It's not going to make us win the Test. We have to work hard."
That's what they've been doing since assembling in Durban on Thursday. van Zyl said the squad had two "really good training sessions" and there is a "good spirit" in the camp. They held an optional practice on Christmas day for "those guys who want to make sure they are 100% ready."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent