Everything on track for the first test
This week is all about the first test against England, taking place at The Oval in London from Thursday. In my opinion, both teams are very balanced and I don’t think there’s much between the two sides. Small things will be the difference and it could come down to a particular session, here and there. That could determine the result.
But, there’s no doubt that it will be a hard-fought first match of the series. The Oval tends to take spin later on in the game, so the spinning options could play a big role the longer the match goes on. But, there is also good bounce at The Oval and our pace attack will enjoy that.
Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk this past week about the loss of Mark Boucher. It’s a massive blow for us, because of Bouch’s experience and his summing-up of situations behind the wicket. It does appear, though, that AB will keep wicket in the first test and that JP Duminy will bat at No 7. If that happens, I think it will be a great opportunity for JP, who actually scored a hundred in his previous test knock, against New Zealand.
The other thing he would bring to the party is the fact that he bowls very good off-spin. So, if he played, that would be another option for Graeme Smith. It would be a forced change, because of Mark’s absence, but AB looks like he’s looking forward to the challenge of keeping wicket. If JP plays, ironically, our batting line-up would be slightly stronger, due to the fact that we’re replacing a wicketkeeper (who bats well) with a frontline batter.
Every guy in the national side has a Mark Boucher story. Mine, or the one that sticks in my mind, is actually from just a week ago. I was sitting out the Somerset game with my foot and wrist injuries, and the day before the game I was taking my kit from the changeroom at Taunton to the field, carrying a bat in one hand. Mark came up behind me and took the bat from me, telling me that he would take it to the field, as the team didn’t want me injuring myself further. It’s a really simple story, but one that sums up Mark Boucher and how he’s always put the team first. He’s played 147 test matches, yet was able to perform such a simple, selfless gesture.
I’m also happy to say that my injuries are a thing of the past. The foot is 100% sorted and I’ll say that the wrist is about 99% there. I’m confident that it will be ready for the first test.
I was satisfied with the tour match against Kent and it was just about perfect, in terms of what we wanted to get out of it, from a team point of view. I made 21 in my knock, but the runs weren’t important. What was important was that I faced 82 balls and time at the wicket was my priority.
In fact, just about all the batsmen, except Graeme and AB, faced at least 80 balls. So, the majority of our frontline batsmen got some good time out there. For me, I got exactly what I wanted and it was enough to adjust once again to the pace of English wickets. I definitely feel like I’m ready for this test match.
Before I go, just an observation about England and its weather. When it rains, everyone always says, “well, that’s England”. But, when it rained during the Kent game and the sun came out afterwards, it really was beautiful. I was standing on the balcony at the ground, observing just how beautiful a place it is to play cricket, with the light shining across the lovely, lush fields. I felt really privileged.
Away from the cricket, it’s been really interesting, although we haven’t done much, as the focus has been on our cricket. But, Vern Philander and I are quite tight and spend a lot of time together. It’s an interesting dynamic, as he’s obviously a bowler and I’m a batter. So, we both get a good perspective on the other discipline.
Now the focus shifts to the first test and I think everything is on track for a fantastic series.