England batsman Paul Collingwood looks set to start the third Test against South Africa at Newlands today, captain Andrew Strauss said.
Collingwood, who did not take the field on the last two days of England’s innings win in the second Test in Durban after injuring his left index finger, batted against his side’s fast bowlers in the nets yesterrday after taking some sharp chances in slip fielding practice.
“Everything looks fine,” Strauss said. “He was batting without any real discomfort. We’re very hopeful, barring any last minute incidents. He’s contributed a huge amount in this series and in previous series and he’s an experienced player as well so it would have been a shame if he had missed out.”
Strauss said the challenge for England, who are one up in a four-match series was to be “ruthless and just as desperate to win as when you’re up.”
He said England learned a lesson from their innings defeat against Australia at Headingley last year after they had gone into the match with a chance of clinching the series.
“We started talking about ‘We could finish it this week’ and ‘Let’s realize our dreams’ instead of just talking about winning the first half hour,” Strauss said.
He said the talk in the dressing room had been about “starting from square one” and “keeping our feet on the ground.”
“In Test matches you’ve always got to earn the right to get on top of the opposition and that’s what we did well in Durban,” he said. “We forced them to stay in the field for over two days and maybe that’s affected their second innings batting. It’s important to start a Test match well so the opposition don’t get on top of you.”
Strauss said there was no reason to be concerned about England’s poor record at Newlands, where they have lost three successive Tests against the host nation.
“Generally the players haven’t been involved in the previous defeats here,” he said. “I’m the only player who was involved in the last Newlands Test. The guys have no fear of playing at Newlands.”
Instead of worrying about their past record, England were looking forward to playing at Newlands, where 84 000 tickets have been sold in advance, including many to traveling England supporters.
“A Newlands Test match is one of the great occasions,” Strauss said. “It’s usually a result wicket so there are a lot of reasons to be switched on and ready.”
South Africa were pondering dropping opener Ashwell Prince down the order after he contributed only 63 runs in four innings, and the form of experienced fast bowler Makhaya Ntini.
Ntini, the first black African to play for South Africa, took two wickets in the first innings of the first test but has struggled since and public opinion has swung against him.
“[Coach] Mickey Arthur has the final call on the XI in consultation with the selectors, but Makhaya is a sensitive issue in South Africa,” captain Graeme Smith said.
“He’s an icon throughout the country, but also an icon in terms of a player of color and as a cricketer in terms of performance,” he said.
“I hope there’s still some confidence left in him, but it’s tough to say he’s improving when he hasn’t taken wickets,” Smith said. “England have played him well, but he hasn’t been at his best.”
Prince looks likely to play, having scored 150 against Australia in his previous test in Cape Town.
“Opening the batting can be tough and the pitch in Durban wasn’t easy,” Smith said.
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