PAARL – Even the most knowledgeable of South African cricket fans should be forgiven for not instantly recognising many members of the Zimbabwean team for an inaugural four-day day-night Test against the Proteas next Tuesday.
But there certainly were two familiar faces boarding the team bus after training at Boland Park yesterday.
They were, of course, former Proteas Makhaya Ntini and Lance Klusener, who are both part of the Zimbabwe coaching team plotting SA’s downfall.
Ntini has been part of the Zimbabwean set-up for a while now, having been appointed bowling coach back in September 2016, before taking over as interim coach after former head coach Dav Whatmore was sacked in May this year.
He has since returned to his bowling role under current coach Heath Streak, and Klusener began as batting coach in June.
“It is certainly good for us to have people with their international records involved with us. It makes it easier for the players to respect them.
“I certainly think with Lance and Makhaya, they almost feel as if they are Zimbabweans because of the similar cultures. They have both fitted in really well,” Streak said yesterday.
An almighty challenge awaits the tourists at St George’s Park on Boxing Day.
Apart from the huge gap between the sides on the ICC Test rankings, they will also be playing with a pink ball under floodlights for the first time.
@ZimCricketv head coach Heath Streak and batting coach @LANCEKLUSENER71 watch closely as their charges train at Boland Park ahead of the Boxing Day four-day Test versus @OfficialCSA scheduled for Port Elizabeth #SAvZIM #4DayTest pic.twitter.com/x5mxhkHKFa
The three-day warm-up match starting today against an SA Invitation XI at Boland Park – in which the pink ball will be utilised – will be good preparation, but the Proteas have the advantage of having played a pink-ball Test against Australia in Adelaide already last year.
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer believes the changing of the playing conditions could suit his team.
“The game will move that much quicker because it’s only four days. What a lot of the so-called bigger teams will do is bat the other team right out of the game and they can bat as long as they want, knowing they’ve got the bowlers to bowl a team out twice.
“The bigger teams will have to probably score a bit quicker and give the lesser team a lot more opportunity to get wickets, and the game will move quite quickly.”