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Mickey Arthur: ‘It’s not panic stations’

There is likely to be at least one change to the South African team for the third Castle Lager Test against England starting at Newlands on Sunday.

Proteas coach Mickey Arthur would not be drawn on what changes were likely to be made to the team that suffered their heaviest defeat to England in 45 years at Kingsmead in Durban on Wednesday, when they were beaten by an innings and 98 runs. However, there is speculation that Lions fast bowler Friedel de Wet could be brought
in to replace veteran bowler Makhaya Ntini, who has had a disappointing series so far.

“We’ve got to look and see which team is going to give us a really good batting platform and which is our best option to take 20 wickets,” said Arthur.

“There are going to be some tough decisions to be made and I’m sure we’ll make the correct ones.

“Makhaya hasn’t performed as we would have liked over the last two Test matches,” he admitted. “But we’ve got to look at what is our best attack to take 20 wickets in this Test match — we’re 1-0 down, and we need to win this Test.”

Arthur said Ntini was an iconic player and as such was given a bit more leeway.

“It’s the same with any icon cricketer — you tend to give them a little longer run because they deserve it and they’ve earned it. Makhaya has certainly earned it.

“I’m not saying for one minute that he’s not going to play this Test match — we need to assess that over the next couple of days. Like a couple of other players, he does come under a little pressure and how he works it over the next two days is going to be instrumental in what we see as our best attack going forward.”

The coach indicated that there were unlikely to be changes to the top six batting order.

“I think our top six is still the best top six that we can put out. I back them to do the job more often than not for us, and they have done it. It’s just a case of one innings where we were bowled out in Durban, so it’s certainly not panic stations in terms of our top six.

“We’ve got to win a Test match, and I’m pretty sure we’ll put out 11 players that can do that,” said Arthur. “Whether that’s one change or two, I’m not sure.”

Arthur said although the team was under pressure going into the must-win Test, the spirit in the dressing-room was good.

“The guys are calm, they’re relaxed, they’re focused and they believe in their ability to win this Test.”

South Africa have an outstanding record at Newlands since readmission, winning 14 of the 20 matches played there since 1992, with England losing all three Tests played there.

England may have to do without the player Arthur described as “the heartbeat” of the team, Paul Collingwood, who dislocated a finger during fielding practice on the fourth day of the Durban Test. Coach Andy Flower said Collingwood was progressing well, but would have to pass a fitness test on Saturday.

“He hasn’t batted against the quicks, and he hasn’t done any robust fielding. He’ll have to do that before we select him,” said Flower, who added that the decision would not be left up to Collingwood.

“He’s desperate to play — he’d probably say anything to play. So on this occasion, he won’t decide.”

Flower said he expected South Africa to come back hard after their poor performance in Durban.

“But I also expect our side to come very hard at them,” he said.

“It should be a good clash. They’re a very proud cricketing nation and they’ve got a very good record here — 14 out of the last 18 Tests, they’ve won, and that presents a huge challenge to us.” – Sapa

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