South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 3rd day January 4, 2011

SA plan on safety-first approach

South Africa are not going to come out with all guns blazing on day four of the deciding Test match against India in Cape Town. "The first thing we need to do is make sure we have enough runs so that we don't lose the match," Dale Steyn said at the end of play on day three. "Then, we will think about setting a target."

It may seem like a negative, safety-first approach, but South Africa don't want to risk leaving India with a gettable target on the last day of the match. The highest target chased successfully at Newlands was 331, which Australia managed in March 2002. It was achieved by an Australia at their peak, but South Africa will be mindful of the number. They still have more than 250 runs to score before they get there.

They've already lost the wickets of Graeme Smith and nightwatchman Paul Harris, but Steyn does not think that will hamper their progress too much. "Losing Graeme was big, but Harro did his job. He made sure Hashim [Amla] only faced four balls instead of three overs."

It will mean that a lot will rest on South Africa's batting order, particularly the two men currently occupying the crease, Alviro Petersen and Amla. Petersen has not yet done enough to cement his place as Smith's opening partner, but this gives him the perfect opportunity to do so. Besides the 77 he scored in Centurion, he has had three starts but has not been able to push on. If he can capitalise on this situation, he will go a long way to putting down roots in the batting line-up for some time to come

Amla had a disappointing Test in Durban but scored an aggressive 59 in the first innings at Newlands, before succumbing to a self-described "sugar rush". He is expected to adopt a more structured strategy in the second knock, especially because of the injury sustained to Jacques Kallis, who has a contusion near his rib and will only bat if necessary. That means Ashwell Prince will also come under the spotlight. He is renowned for his ability to perform under pressure and grind out runs when needed, although South Africa will not want to depend on that to put themselves in a position of advantage.

If the Australia chase is taken out of the equation, the next highest successfully chase is 211, by South Africa against India in 2007. That bit of history may mean nothing now, because the India team on the current tour is more competitive away from home than the team from 2007. That may be why South Africa are talking more like they are prepared to play for a draw than a win.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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