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Fun & games and Aussie verbals

It’s been a busy week full of cricket, but not with the intensity of test match cricket.

It kicked off with the Cell C Festival of Cricket in Cape Town and it was great fun taking on the Springboks at Sahara Park Newlands, which was packed – a really impressive effort from the locals there.

I was also really impressed with some of the skills shown by the rugby players.

It’s funny, I expected them to be stronger in the batting department, but their bowling was really good, particularly Willem Alberts who will be able to tell his grandchildren that he dismissed Jacques Kallis and Henry Davids with consecutive deliveries!

Bob Skinstad also impressed me with his batting and fielding skills, as did Tiaan Liebenberg and Willie le Roux.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Bismarck du Plessis who came in as a tailender, got bounced a bit and received some abuse. All good fun though.

That game was followed by the North v South game, and it was good to get runs there and help the North to victory.

After that was the start of the RAM SLAM T20 Challenge, and I think it’s fantastic that the national players are available for it. It will only strengthen the 20-over skills in this country.

On a personal note, I have a new sponsor as I switched from Gunn & Moore (GM) to IXU, a new cricket equipment sponsor launching soon in South Africa.

I had 14 great years with GM, but I’m excited about the change. You may wonder what goes into making a change like this, particularly with the bat I use and I can tell you that it’s pretty seamless.

I was able to spend some time hitting balls with the IXU bat and quickly became comfortable with it. The most important thing for me is the bat’s pick-up. I like my bats to be big, with a lot of wood, and have a light pick-up. I asked them to make a bat very similar to what I was using with GM, so it wasn’t a big change to make.

There’s obviously been a lot of talk in the past week or so about the upcoming series against Australia, and I’ve been asked about the Australians, particularly regarding their comments that they have the best bowling attack in the world.

For us it’s pretty simple – we’ve played them before and know what they’re like. The Australians are quite ‘verbal’ in their approach and it’s one of the ways they take on other teams. Our style and brand of cricket is quite different.

We’ve had success over the past two years not getting involved in any of the off-field verbal stuff, and have just concentrated on our own game. That’s worked for us and we’re not going to change now, even though it’s obvious that the bowling stats of our guys are pretty impressive, to say the least.

So, the next few weeks are dominated by 20-over cricket, although the national test squad is assembling earlier than normal for the Aussie series. I even think there’s a three- or four-day game planned.

Obviously, we’re very aware of making sure we are fully prepared for what is a huge series. It’s important to go into the first test with some long-form cricket under the belt.

Fortunately, the fixtures allow for it on this occasion. The bowlers need some overs in their legs and the batsmen need to bat for longer than you do in a 20-over or ODI game.

As a team, we understand how big this series is – the Aussies are playing great cricket at the moment and we are number one in the world. We’re really looking forward to it.

There’s also nothing to worry about from an injury point of view. Dale Steyn has a bit of a rib niggle and AB de Villiers is having surgery on his hand. However, both will be ready for the series.

I also have a bit of an issue with my shoulder, but all it’s going to require is a scan and I will also be fully fit for the Aussie series.

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