SA relishing Test return against Windies

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JOHANNESBURG — Top-ranked South Africa will play first Test in five months when they face an unfamiliar West Indies in the opening contest of their three-match series in Pretoria tomorrow.

It will also be a first outing for the islanders since they cut short their tour of India in October after a dispute between the players and their board. Having last played each other in five-day cricket in 2010, South Africa coach Russell Domingo said he had to do some extra homework against a team without experienced stalwarts Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo and Darren Sammy, who retired from tests in May.

“We haven’t played a Test since our tour to Zimbabwe in August so that is nearly five months,” Domingo told reporters.

“It gives us some time away from the white ball to re-energise that aspect of our game; we have played a lot of one-day-international cricket over the last year.

“We need to do our homework on them. West Indies cricket has a proud reputation and a proud record. We know that they are one of the best one-day sides in the world and they are a team that will be desperate to do well in the test format.”

South Africa will hand a debut to 27-year-old right-handed batsman Stiaan van Zyl, usually a No 3 at provincial level for the Cape Town-based Cobras, but likely to fill in at seven in the place of the injured JP Duminy for this series.

Stiaan-van-Zyl-forward-defensive
Stiaan-van-Zyl-forward-defensive

The tour will be a challenge for the West Indian batsmen against South Africa’s vaunted pace attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, with Proteas opener Dean Elgar suggesting it is the toughest country in the world to face the new ball.

Elgar, a replacement in the opening positions for the retired Graeme Smith, believes the side is at peace with the loss of their former captain and Jacques Kallis, who retired from international cricket last season, and are looking forward to the years ahead under new skipper Hashim Amla, who debuted in the role in Sri Lanka in July.

“That era has come to an end now,” Elgar said. “The guys who are in the team appreciate what has happened and are mature and professional.”

— SuperSport