Amla backing Proteas to handle the pressure
Hashim Amla is backing his South Africa side to cope with the pressure and show why they are the top-ranked team in Test cricket when they face England in an eagerly awaited four-match series.
The Proteas have been licking their wounds since suffering a 3-0 hammering in India, where they came unstuck against spin in testing conditions.
South Africa had not been beaten in a Test series overseas for nine years until then and will be expected to show what they are made of on home soil.
England head into the four-match series on the back of a 2-0 Test series defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and must contend without spearhead James Anderson in the first Test at Kingsmead – which starts on Boxing Day – owing to a calf injury.
South Africa captain Amla expects his side to respond and is not reading too much into the tourists’ emphatic victory over South Africa A in their final warm-up.
The prolific batsman said: “Both teams have come from losing previous tours. I think both teams are looking to start a resurgence again.
“The fact that they beat South Africa A, for me, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on it. We know that Test cricket is the ultimate and you can’t replicate the pressures of Test cricket.
“In international cricket, there is always somebody under pressure so it’s not a new thing that we are suddenly under pressure, it”s just how it is in international cricket.
“Every game has a lot of consequences to it. At the start of this Test series, all it takes is one good batting day to start a resurgence for our Test team. The guys are used to it and are able to handle the pressure.”
Stuart Broad will be England’s premier paceman in the absence of Anderson in Durban, with Steve Finn set to return and Mark Footitt vying for a debut at the expense of Chris Woakes.
Broad is predicting a classic series as England attempt to lift the Basil D’Oliveria Trophy and feels they can take inspiration from their surprise Ashes triumph over Australia this year.
“We know the dangers in their team. Any team with [AB] de Villiers, Amla, [Dale] Steyn and [Morne] Morkel in are going to be dangerous,” he added. “We’ve got huge respect for them, but we learned lessons in the Ashes.
“We’re not playing the men, we’re not playing De Villiers the name, we’re playing a batsman and a ball. That’s what we took strength from in the Ashes with Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke. We’re playing to our strengths and not going to be too focused on what South Africa are doing.
“As a team when you have not won for a while you are feeling around a bit. England are in no different a position. We didn’t win against Pakistan in the UAE, we’ve not won for four Tests – both teams are so similar it will be a pretty epic series, I think.”
Proteas paceman Steyn is set to return from a groin injury and De Villiers will take over as wicketkeeper. Vernon Philander (ankle) is ruled out. Opening batsman Alex Hales is expected to make his Test bow for England, with Nick Compton or Gary Ballance in at number three.