SOUTH AFRICA will have to overturn more than a century of history if they are to start their three-match Test series against England with a win, which would serve as a fitting tribute to captain Graeme Smith who will jog onto The Oval for his 100th Test.
The South Africans had a lengthy training session at the Kennington venue yesterday, an opportunity to get accustomed to a ground at which no South African team has won a Test dating back to 1907 when the sides first locked horns there.
It’s a record neither current Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald, who played in the 1994 “Devon Malcolm game”, nor Jacques Kallis, who was part of the 2003 and 2008 sides which lost at the ground, can explain.
In fact the closest anyone has come to giving a decent explanation for the poor record has been Smith himself, who claimed tiredness at the end of lengthy tours in 2003 and 2008 meant South Africa couldn’t match England’s intensity.
There is little chance of that with The Oval the venue for the opening Test in a much-hyped series which will determine the No 1-ranked team in Test cricket.
England pace spearhead James Anderson pointed to the toughness of the South African team, while indicating that he and his teammates had the armoury to break them down.
“This is going to be our toughest challenge for a while,” said Anderson. “But we have got the confidence going into it. We have the necessary weapons to beat them.”
Smith will play his 100th Test tomorrow – actually it’s his 99th for South Africa but because the ICC accorded the World XI match against Australia 2005 Test status – Smith reaches the magical figure now.
And Kallis, one of five South Africans to have reached the landmark of a century of Test matches, said: “We as a team are hoping to play some good cricket and make it worthy of a 100th Test match, he deserves that. He’s been captain for most of them, which has been an incredible effort. He’s contributed massively to South African cricket and at times he’s been criticised unfairly.”
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