After engaging with a one ton rhinoceros, Mitchell Johnson and the rest of the much-hyped Australian attack will probably look like pussycats next week for the South African team who wrapped up the first half of their preparation for the much-anticipated Test series yesterday.
To be fair, Johnson and Co will be firing down 145km/h thunderbolts, while the rhinos will be “knocked out” by a tranquiliser when the Proteas get involved with them. The squad headed to the Karongwe Nature Reserve near Hoedspruit for two days of team-bonding.
It is, said AB de Villiers, the perfect time to get away ahead of what is certain to be a closely contested Test series between two sides who’ve engaged in some robust matches in the last five years.
“I can’t think of a better place to go, just to push the reset button. We’ve done our work, and now we can go and head into what will be a big Test series,” said De Villiers.
Besides time spent around the camp-fire, the players will also be provided with an opportunity to dart rhinos, from which blood will be taken as part of building up an extensive DNA database which it is hoped will help in the fight against rhino poaching.
On the cricket front, De Villiers and Proteas coach Russell Domingo expressed their happiness with the three days of practice the side have had at the Wanderers. De Villiers, who underwent surgery to his left hand to remove a plate inserted a few years ago, caused a surprise by having a bat against the Composite side yesterday morning.
“Everything is back into shape, a few more days of nets and I’ll be back to 100%. (The hand) is as strong as my right hand,” said De Villiers, who batted for 100 minutes and faced 65 balls. Though initially circumspect, he gradually looked more comfortable at the crease and was able to play some trademark shots both sides of the wicket.
If his left hand was in any way not up to scratch after surgery, then the spell Morné Morkel produced from the Golf Course End would have tested it. Bowling close to his top speed, Morkel got the ball thudding into the gloves, but De Villiers showed little discomfort.
Morkel and Vernon Philander were very impressive when given a final burst late in the afternoon. Morkel, in particular, appeared to crank up his pace while the movement and bounce he got off the surface proved disconcerting for the batsmen in the Composite side. Philander too bowled with more zip than in the first innings.
Dale Steyn still didn’t appear to be up to full pace, but the coaching staff are certainly pleased that he is progressing well leading into the first Test next Wednesday.
Domingo said he was “pretty clear” about the starting XI for the first Test, but added he was still keeping his options open. “For us to settle on an XI now, a week before the Test match would be unwise until we’ve seen conditions.”
Meanwhile, the coach also confirmed that JP Duminy had a slight bout of tendinitis in his left hand.
Domingo was pleased with the amount of time the batsmen spent at the crease especially the lower order, who on the first day, in testing conditions, had to display some determination against an attack featuring the in-form Beuran Hendricks as well as Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren who were looking to prove point in-terms of breaking into the starting XI for the Centurion match.
Meanwhile Domingo confirmed that JP Duminy had a slight bout of tendinitis in his left hand. The injury forced him to retire hurt while batting on day two and he’ll be resting the hand for a few days – “he won’t be putting a thermometer in a rhino’s bum with his left hand,” chirped Domingo – before adding that Duminy should be fit to resume full practice by Monday.
The Australians will have a ‘centre practice’ at the Wanderers today. - Cape Times