Arthur out to exploit weaknesses
South Africa see a vulnerability in England’s batting which they believe they can continue to expose in the second Test at Kingsmead.
England lost five wickets for 13 runs before holding on for a Centurion draw in the first Test - and that collapse, coupled with opener Alastair Cook’s lack of recent runs, has got the home bowlers licking their lips.
South Africa coach Mickey Arthur expects England to once again select six batsmen and just four bowlers, a prospect with which he appears happy.
“I think their middle order struggled a little bit during the first Test,” he said.
“There’s pressure on Cook and on (Ian) Bell. I wouldn’t expect England to go with five batters and (wicketkeeper Matt) Prior at six, given what happened at Centurion.
“I think they’ll play six. But two of those come into the Test under a bit of pressure.”
South Africa have prospered with a similar selection policy for several years. But as Arthur points out, they have the “luxury” of Jacques Kallis - a world-beating all-rounder who is frontline in both disciplines.
“We’ve been very lucky to have a guy of Jacques’ ability to bat four and bowl at 140kph,” he said.
As for the remainder of South Africa’s resources, Arthur confirms that if Dale Steyn is fit - the fast bowler pulled out on the morning of the match last week - after his hamstring strain, Friedel de Wet is likely to drop out.
“Dale bowled 10 overs at virtually full pace yesterday, and there’s been no comeback - so I’m pretty sure he’ll be fit to take his place,” the coach reported.
Kallis was unable to fulfil his bowling role, other than a handful of half-pace overs, at Centurion as he continues his recovery from a broken rib.
Arthur added: “We wouldn’t want to push him and risk further injury down the line. We hope we can get maybe 12 overs from him in a day.”
Many have suggested Makhaya Ntini - who has just played his 100th Test to great acclaim - may be the pace bowler to make way for Steyn.
But Arthur has great faith in Ntini - and despite five wickets on his debut, De Wet will be the discard.
“Makhaya has taken some flak, and I’m not 100% sure why,” said Arthur.
“He performed a role - but I guess there was always going to be the speculation once Friedel rocked up and nearly bowled us to victory.
“I don’t mind there being some pressure on the bowlers, but those who are playing know they have the full backing of myself and Graeme.
“We still back Makhaya hugely and we go back to the success we’ve had in recent times – it has come from an attack of Steyn, Ntini, (Morne) Morkel, (Paul) Harris and Kallis - so I can’t see us differing too much from that.
“We’ll probably go back to our tried and tested for what is a really important Test.”
England’s best bet of returning fire will come from James Anderson, especially if forecast cloud cover does prevail at Kingsmead.
Arthur does not seek to deny the threat posed by Anderson.
“When he fires, England get into a really good position - and this is probably the one ground where he will get assistance in terms of swing,” he said.
“He’ll be their danger man and someone we need to look out for.”