After displacing Australia from the top spot in one-day rankings,South Africa coach Micky Arthur is now getting ready for a double as he attempts to snatch the number one position in Tests from Ricky Ponting’s men when they clash at home from February 26.
Australia will visit South Africa for three Tests,two Twenty20 matches and five one-dayers and at stake is the number elite position in Test rankings.
Despite losing the Test series at home to South Africa,Australia,at 126 points,still maintain a five-point slender lead at the top and Arthur believes his team has the depth in batting and bowling to overcome the visitors.
“The recent tour to Australia has demonstrated the depth that we have developed in both our batting and bowling departments and this augurs well for the Castle Test squad going forward into another tough series against Australia,” said Arthur,who is looking for an encore after completing Australia’s humiliation in both Tests and ODIs at their own backyard.
And with the number one spot in Tests up for grabs,Arthur feels it will make his players more charged up.
“There is also the No. 1 Reliance Mobile ICC Test ranking at stake which will make the upcoming series even more special for players and supporters,” he said.
South Africa skipper Graeme Smith,who missed the ODI series due to injury,said their recent success will give them a slight edge over Australia in the home series.
“We are all looking forward to getting back into the five-day game and the particular challenges that it poses. It will also be wonderful to be playing on our own grounds again in front of our own supporters,” he said.
Cricket South Africa selection committee,who kept faith in the same squad that did duty in the Test series in Australia,admitted it was a tough call to leave out Ashwell Prince from the team. “It was a difficult decision,” said selection committee convener Mike Procter.
“We are in the fortunate position of having seven world-class batsmen competing for six positions. It is a very healthy position for South African cricket. Ashwell is understandably bitterly disappointed but he appreciates that he has not had the opportunity to play much cricket since his injury,” he said.
The selectors also decided to retain fast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe for the Test series despite the fact that he got limited opportunity Down Under.
“Tsotsobe performed very impressively from limited opportunities in Australia and he gives us extra bowling variety and depth,” said Procter.
Wicket-keeper batsman Mark Boucher,who missed the last two ODIs against Australia after suffering a broken toe,was retained in the squad as CSA felt he would recover in time for the Test series.
“We are monitoring Mark Boucher’s recovery from injury and we are confident that he will be fit to play by the time the series starts,” said Procter.
CSA,meanwhile,has rejected claims in the local media here that a decision has been taken to appoint separate captains for Tests and ODIs.
“This is pure media speculation and does not emanate from Cricket South Africa,” said CEO,Gerald Majola following reports that separate captains would be in the country’s interest.
The speculation came to the fore after Johan Botha guided South Africa to the ODI series victory against Australia in the absence of the injured Smith,who lead the team to the Test series triumph Down Under.
“Cricket South Africa’s position is straight forward and has not changed. The Board appoints its captains and vice-captains at the start of every season and those individuals remain in charge for the duration of that season unless they retire,resign or become unavailable for some other reason such as a long-term injury. This has clearly not happened in this case and CSA has full confidence in its leadership group who did a brilliant job in all formats of the game during the recent tour of Australia. The current media speculation is unfounded and has no factual basis,” said Majola.