No let-up as Proteas push for a convincing victory at Lord’s
FAR from removing their foot from England’s throat in the third Test at Lord’s in London next week, SA are determined to continue playing aggressive cricket.
They will follow the same attacking logic that helped them breathe life into what seemed a dead second Test at Headingley in Leeds on Monday.
Graeme Smith’s declaration set England a target of 253 from a minimum of 39 overs, and when the teams shook hands on the draw the home side had been reduced to 130/4.
"We made a statement," Faf du Plessis said yesterday. "It would have been so easy to bat out the day, but we wanted to do something special.
"If we bowled out England in 35 overs it would have been one of the best efforts ever. We want to win, even when it looks like it’s going to be a draw."
The Proteas, who surged to an emphatic innings victory in the first Test at the Oval in London and had the better of the Leeds match, now take a 1-0 lead into the series decider — a match that will determine the top Test team according to the International Cricket Council rankings.
If England win the third Test and level the series they will retain the number one ranking. If SA win or the game is drawn, Smith’s team will take over the mantle. Put in a similar position, sides of lesser mettle would be tempted to adopt conservative tactics to try and protect their advantage.
But SA have their eyes on the prize of winning the rubber by the largest margin possible, and that means pushing for another triumph at Lord’s.
"We’re 1-0 up but we want to win 2-0," Du Plessis said.
Alviro Petersen said SA were "not even thinking" of sitting on their lead.
"We’re focused on our processes and making sure that our preparation is on par so we can start well and try and dominate at Lord’s," he said.
The views of Du Plessis and Petersen dovetail with the sentiments their captain expressed after the second Test.
"We showed with our declaration what our mind-set is and what we are here to do, and I don’t see it changing at Lord’s," Smith said.
The second Test will be remembered with particular fondness by Petersen, whose gritty 182 was the fulcrum around which SA’s first innings of 419 turned.
Petersen had gone into the match hearing calls for his head in the wake of the duck he made at the Oval.
"I’m under pressure every game. I’m always one innings away, when I fail, from the media getting on my case."
Petersen’s dignified response to his critics is nothing like the ill feeling caused by Kevin Pietersen, whose uncertain future as an international player has plunged the England camp into turmoil. Pietersen told the BBC that he cannot give assurances that the third Test would not be his last.
"I love playing Test cricket for England, but there are obstacles and I’ll decide what happens at the end of the next Test match," said Pietersen, whose spectacular 149 in England’s first innings and haul of 3/52 in SA’s second innings earned him man-of-the-match honours.
At a press conference after the match, a smug, petulant Pietersen kept the media guessing about his plans.
All of which contrasted sharply with the strong feeling of unity emanating from the Proteas’ camp.
"You feel a part of the team even though you aren’t close to playing," said Du Plessis, who had his first taste of Test cricket in Leeds as a substitute fielder.
"That’s how it is with the SA team, they make you feel as if you fit in. The team comes first and we always play for each other."
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