Rudolph, Morkel working to improve
Although South Africa crushed Sri Lanka in less than three days in Centurion, not all their players turned in sensational performances. Two that did not were opening batsman Jacques Rudolph and fast bowler Morne Morkel, and they have travelled to Durban, the venue for the second Test, earlier than their team-mates to practice.
Rudolph and Morkel were at Kingsmead two days before the rest of the South Africa players, who will arrive on December 23. They held an hour-long net session in a bid to fine-tune their skills before the series resumes on Boxing Day. "We saw it as a win-win situation," Rudolph told ESPNcricinfo. "It gives us a nice opportunity to practice down here and my wife and his [Morkel's] girlfriend can have a bit of a holiday."
Rudolph scored 44 off 140 balls in the first Test at SuperSport Park, a laboured innings but one that allowed him to adjust to the pace of Test cricket after three frenetic knocks against Australia. Instead of searching for runs and carving strokes out of thin air, Rudolph was more circumspect in his approach.
Sri Lanka's bowlers were also partly to blame for Rudolph's approach because they presented him with little to play at in the early part of his innings. Of the first 50 balls he faced, Rudolph left 24 outside the off stump. The shot of his innings came 14 balls before he was dismissed, a drive through the covers off left-arm fast bowler Chanaka Welegedara. He was out after scoring four more runs, giving Tharanga Paranavitana a low chance at first slip.
Rudolph has scored 18, 14, 30, 24, and 44 since his recall to the Test side. "It is in the back of my mind to try and convert those scores," Rudolph said. "The way I played in Centurion is more the way I want to play cricket, to be positive but a little more selective."
Rudolph has also had to contend with seamer-friendly pitches as the hosts look to maximise their pace advantage. Instead of seeing the surfaces as a hindrance, Rudolph hoped they would help him become a more vigilant player. "If you are meticulous in the way you want to score runs, you will be able to do it even on green pitches," he said.
Morkel, on the other hand, was expected to thrive in the conditions. Instead, he struggled to adapt to his new role at first-change. He battled to find the correct length and had to work on his delivery stride with bowling coach Allan Donald. Rudolph tipped Morkel for a quality performance next week. "He bowled really well and I think you can expect a lot from him in this Test, he is getting his lengths right."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent