Aussies' fearsome attack worry SA
durban: Some of the world's best fast bowlers will square up when the first Test between South Africa and Australia starts at Kingsmead on Thursday.
They may find, however, that some of their sting drawn by pitch conditions.
Kingsmead has lost the reputation it once had as a fast bowler's paradise. It has been many years since wicketkeepers had to leap around as balls soared and sped off the playing surface.
Indications are that the pitch will offer encouragement but not excessive help to the fast men, with enough grass on the surface to assist movement off the seam.
The South African team, it seems, has given up on trying to influence conditions after their "requests" to groundsmen resulted in pitches that were less than ideal for a recent three-Test series against India. The surface for the third Test at the Wanderers was condemned as poor by International Cricket Council match referee Andy Pycroft.
"Everybody knows what happened at the Wanderers, so we've left the groundsmen to prepare the best possible pitches that they can," coach Ottis Gibson said last week.
Assuming the conditions are fair, it should be a red-blooded battle between the teams ranked second and third in Test cricket behind India.
Both have potent fast bowlers and exciting, if fragile, batting line-ups.
South Africa won the first two Tests against India with a four-man pace attack, left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj and just six top-quality batsmen. But may be tempted to strengthen their batting at the expense of one of the specialist bowlers.
That decision may be influenced by a lack of form of key players as well as injuries which kept several out of action in recent weeks.
Captain Faf du Plessis is expected to play, although the right index finger he broke four weeks ago remained bandaged and he took a minimal part in the team's first practice in Durban on Monday.