- Proteas ready to front up to Johnson
The grassy Port Elizabeth pitch has been cut back and could be shorn further before the second Test begins.
Michael Clarke, speaking yesterday, believed a day-three finish could be on the cards if curator Adrian Carter did not trim the centre strip.
St George’s Park groundsman Carter on yesterday told ESPNcricinfo the “furry” pitch “scares” him, and he was awaiting further instructions from the South African camp before deciding what to do with it.
Today at approximately noon in Port Elizabeth, Carter fired up the mower but still left a thin layer of grass on top for the contest, which begins tonight (NZT).
South Africa need to at least draw if they’re to avoid their first Test series loss since 2009.
With rain expected in the first session, it’s understood Carter plans to assess the surface early on day one before deciding whether to smooth it further.
“It certainly looks better today,” Clarke said today.
“It’s going to be a good Test wicket.”
Australia and South Africa boast four of the top five bowlers in the ICC’s Test rankings, and the hosts risk adding to Mitchell Johnson’s potency if they serve up a green top.
Australia can wrap up their first Test series win on foreign soil since April 2012 if they defeat the Proteas in Port Elizabeth.
Clarke tipped a far more even contest than the resounding win in Centurion, where Johnson claimed career-best match figures of 12-127.
“South Africa are a wonderful team with a lot of experience. They’ll be at the top of their game,” he said.
“I don’t think one loss should be an indication that it’s a generation change or South African cricket is in trouble.
“They’re a very good team led by a very good captain.
“We’re improving as a team, but I think we believe we’re still a long way from being the best team in the world.”
Shane Watson bowled off a shortened run-up in the nets today as he continues his recovery from a calf injury, but the allrounder isn’t expected to feature in the second Test.
Clarke recently revealed Watson would only return to the Test side if he’s fit enough to bowl.
As such, Australia are set to take an unchanged XI into the match.
Graeme Smith would not reveal who will take Ryan McLaren’s spot in the side, but promised his teammates would fight back at Port Elizabeth.
“This week it’s about not carrying too much baggage from Centurion,” Smith said.
“Centurion is behind us.”