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Who will draw first blood?

Every time that South Africa plays a test match series, there is great interest from many cricket lovers. That interest is increased when they play against the Australians and this time around, with the number one ranking on the line, it is no surprise that from test match to test match the contest just gets a little bit more intriguing.

After their exploits in the first test match, both teams have a few issues that they will hope to have sorted out. The stalemate in Brisbane highlighted some problem areas and provided a benchmark to work from.

The Proteas will most likely return to their successful formula of picking three fast bowlers and a spinner with the hope of a much improved bowling performance and Australia will remain as they were because of Shane Watson’s fitness woes, but buoyed by how they turned around a precarious position in the match.

There has been chatter about the South Africa team ‘going on holiday’ rather than training but it is important to note that the Aussies also went on a break and reconvened a few days before the Adelaide test match is due to start. The Gary Kirsten camp has taken the attitude that rest is as important as practice and, thus far, they cannot be faulted as things have gone well enough.

There has also been much talk about sledging and the way that the two teams are going to go about trying to get the upper hand in Adelaide. I am glad the time for talking is done and these two colossal sides can take to the field and allow bat and ball to do the talking. So often in trying to convey what they will do, cricketers say things the wrong way and little things become big as they are taken out of context. Whatever has been said, it is now time to back it up by doing it on the park.

A test match debut awaits for Faf du Plessis, who benefits from the injury to JP Duminy. It is an opportunity that he would probably felt he was not going to get with the Proteas test team so consistent and settled in terms of selection.

Should Faf contribute significantly with the bat, then the competition for places is once again heightened...a good thing as it means those in the team do not rest on their laurels. Eight centuries in 78 first-class matches at an average of just over 38 suggests that he is fortunate to get a go and that is what it takes really, a chance; he needs to use this chance.

Another man who will be battling to justify his selection having been left out of the side a couple of times since entering the team is Imran Tahir. In the time that Tahir has played for the Proteas, the pace attack has done the bulk of the work and his job has been to help out by breaking a stubborn partnership here and there as well as mopping up troublesome tails.

In that regard he has been adequate, but the one thing that he will be striving for is a big contribution in the way of a sizeable haul of wickets. With all the talk of how the Adelaide pitch behaves, this might be his opportunity.

While I think that leaving Tahir out in Brisbane was a mistake, I reckon it is not a bad thing to put a player under pressure to perform. It is only by top performance that one retains his place in a side. Looking through the Proteas team, there are members who are pretty much indispensable because of the sheer weight of their performances.

Tahir has been given the time and has been in the side for a while now, the onus is on him to show that he has accepted the job of being the team’s spinner by carrying it well and delivering where conditions suit. He sure has the tools to do so.

Drawing first blood is what either team would like to do so that they can go to Perth having the upper hand. As things stand, despite Australia’s performance in Brisbane, I still believe that South Africa have the stronger team and a slight edge over the Aussies.

If they play to potential and apply sustained pressure on the Aussies, they can win in Adelaide. One just never knows though as the Australians are a resilient lot, particularly at home.

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