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Pitch battles - What to prepare for Aus

After the recent Durban pitch debacle it’s time to consider the type of surface on which South Africa wish to play when they confront Australia.

One of the hallmarks of the No 1 test team over the last few years has been their willingness to take on the opposition. Many times skipper Smith, as an opener, has had to breathe deeply and swallow a bitter pill and bat first upon winning the toss on a willing surface. South Africa uniquely often look towards day two conditions and how that will suit them when deciding toss tactics.

In my mind the stark reality is that their hand is somewhat forced come February 12. SuperSport Park will provide a pitch that they fancy but the stakes are higher and edgier this time around. There will be bounce at Centurion with some pace and, importantly, the normal characteristic of this venue is that is quickens up on day two.

The problem that skipper Smith faces is that although Robin Peterson performed well on day five of the last test against India, the last thing South Africa will want is to open the door to an opposition spinner who has now become a class act. An energised, confident and vastly improved Nathan Lyon, given the correct surfaces, could become Australia’s trump card as he constructs a valuable holding pattern early, then spins with an attacking nature later.

That will mean going into this crucial opening gambit on a surface that will suit the compelling pace potency that South Africa possess. Obviously that tactic opens the door for a potential Australian blitz from their aggressive pace attack should the coin fall the wrong way.

In an ideal world South Africa would look to take on all-comers. Australia’s form and hostility may however force a rethink first up this time around. Should that happen and a relatively benign surface is presented for the first test, the second clash is at the often inconsistent location of Port Elizabeth. Again, the last thing wanted by South Africa is an opportunity for spin domination there.

I feel Smith needs to request and engineer a surface at SuperSport Park that will compliment his own pace attack. They must however be mindful of the ferociousness of Johnson and the excellence of Harris and ensure a sense of sensibility is maintained.

In doing that they will be backing their superior talented trio of Steyn, Philander and Morkel to trump the recently rampant tykes from Down Under.

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