Vernon Philander during a training session in Cape Town last week. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

DURBAN - The Proteas arrived in Durban yesterday, and immediately set about their task for the Test series, with an extensive session at Kingsmead.

After a short break for most of the heavyweights in the side, during which the others contested the ODI and T20 series, the cobwebs were well and truly shaken off on a very steamy afternoon on the coast.

The bowlers had a trundle in the middle, while the batters went and did some work in the nets.

Hashim Amla was the exception, working out with the pace bowlers in the middle. By and large, the Proteas were relaxed about a series that they expect to dominate, given their home comforts and their pace-heavy strategy.

There will be some serious considerations for the selection panel to make over the next few days. The pitch that is being prepared by curator Wilson Ngobese looks like it will have a bit of life about it, and that may again see the four-man pace attack plan employed.

It has worked a treat thus far, and all of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Duanne Olivier looked ready to be unleashed. If the Durban weather persists to be quite as a steamy as it was, the pitch can only harden, which will add a bit of bounce to the expected seam around Kingsmead.

For Keshav Maharaj, who has endured a long summer on the sidelines, the wait may continue. There simply is no easy way to put him into the side at the moment, aside from moving Quinton de Kock up the order to No 6.

That would then toy with the dynamics of a middle-order that is also over-subscribed. Skipper Faf du PLessis is back, while Theunis de Bruyn and Zubayr Hamza are itching for more opportunities.

Young Hamza spent the time away from international duty making big runs for the Cape Cobras, as they tried valiantly to win the four-day domestic title. Ultimately, they fell just short, on a dramatic final day.

“We have to give credit where it’s due, and commend the Lions for winning the title. To win on the final day, when they had to push right to the end, and to also win four games on the trot, that was good cricket,” Hamza noted.

He and the Cobras would have been hurting for a week, but there have been a lot of positives taken from a season where they have got very close to silverware twice. Hamza himself has grown in stature, and is now poised to challenge for a regular spot in the Proteas set-up.

Whether or not that happens right away remains to be seen, however, because there is a lot of congestion for places. If there was any title ribbing from the Lions players in the squad, it clearly didn’t last very long, because Hamza and Philander appeared in very good spirits.

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All domestic alliances have been left at the door, and the focus now is how to get one over Sri Lanka. With several players in the South African side looking ominous against Pakistan, including skipper Du Plessis with a terrific century at Newlands, the smart money is on the Proteas cashing in, and making considerable hay in the Durban heat.

Before then, though, there are two days of hard work in preparation, as they look to get back to winning ways on a Kingsmead track that hasn’t given them much joy over the past decade.

This week may well be the time that changes.


The Mercury

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