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Port Elizabeth -
The South African cricket team is inclined to do things the hard way - but from Friday in Port Elizabeth there is a window of opportunity to right a peculiar anomaly in their marvellous recent run of success.
The Proteas have risen to the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings on the back of some outstanding performances in recent seasons. Key to their ascent has been their form away from home - South Africa are unbeaten on their travels since 2006 and they’ve twice seen off traditionally strong rivals England and Australia in their own backyards.
Which is just as well because, rather curiously, South Africa have struggled on their home patch over the same period.
Since a walloping of Bangladesh in late 2008, the Proteas have only a hard-fought 2-1 series win over Sri Lanka early in 2012 to show in the series won column.
England, India and Australia have all secured series draws in recent seasons while back in 2008/2009 Australia won the three-match series 2-1.
South Africa will therefore be looking looking to secure just their second home Test series win in over four years when they take on New Zealand in the second Test at St George’s from Friday after cantering to an innings win in the opening Test at Newlands.
Test vice-captain AB de Villiers admitted the Proteas were working on their fluctuating performances and said they had to fix the problem if they were to remain at the top of the Test rankings for the foreseeable future.
“We constantly talk about our inconsistency because we want to stay number one for many years to come,” he said on Wednesday.
“To do that, we’ve got to take it one game at a time. Our focus is now on this match in Port Elizabeth where we haven’t played well in the past.
“We want to change that and, if we get through this one, it will definitely be a big step in the right direction.”
Indeed, it would be a step in the right direction in addressing their shortcomings at home.
But it won’t be easy. The pitch in PE is expected to be a low and slow - much like what New Zealand have back home - and the Black Caps are unlikely to make it quite as easy for the Proteas as last time out. - Cape Argus