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South Africa ready for the challenge

South Africa open their tour of India on Tuesday with a practice match ahead of their bid to dislodge the hosts as the number one Test nation.

cricket Updated: Feb 02, 2010 02:13 IST

South Africa open their tour of India on Tuesday with a practice match ahead of their bid to dislodge the hosts as the number one Test nation.

The tourists take on the Board President's XI in a two-day match in Nagpur before the first Test begins at the new Vidarbha Cricket Association ground on the outskirts of the city on Saturday.

The two-Test series — the second match will be played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata from February 14 — could be one of the most important the Proteas have played in recent years.

Second-ranked South Africa need a 2-0 series win to displace India from the top. A 1-0 result in favour of the tourists will leave both teams level on 123 rating points.

South Africa were rattled last week by the resignation of long-time coach Mickey Arthur over what he said were differences with Cricket South Africa on the future course of action.

The entire selection committee, headed by former Test all-rounder Mike Procter, was also sacked following a 1-1 series draw to England at home.

National high performance coach Corrie van Zyl has taken over from Arthur for the Indian tour, which includes three one-day internationals after the Tests.

Skipper Graeme Smith was, however, confident the team would recover from the recent setbacks and perform well in India.

The 15-man squad includes right-hand batsman Alviro Petersen, 29, and left-arm fast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 25, both of whom have yet to play Test cricket. Tsotsobe is part of a five-man pace attack led by Dale Steyn, but there is no place for former spearhead Makhaya Ntini.

On the other hand, young Indian players like paceman Abhimanyu Mithun, who have already got a call into the Test squad, Manpreet Gony and Shikhar Dhawan would like to prove their mettle in the match.

It will also be a test for Board XI skipper Rohit Sharma and Piyush Chawla to reclaim their spot in the India squad after being in and out of the team for sometime.

Smith tells side to buckle up

Smith urged his side to make the most of their five days' preparation before the first Test against India.

South Africa have only five days to prepare for the two-Test tour after coach Mickey Arthur resigned and the entire selection panel was sacked following the drawn series with England,

“It's quite a condensed tour. There is a lot to jam in into those five days especially that Corrie has just come in and there is a lot for us to do,” Smith said. “The most important thing to do is to get the specifics right. You must get the specifics right and make sure you make the most of each day that you have been given.”

India displaced South Africa as world number one in December after securing a 2-0 series victory over Sri Lanka.

“India now hold the mantle of number one in the world, which is a credit to the way they have played,” Smith said.

“But we have come here to hopefully play better than them and take it away from them. That's something we are talking about.

“To be successful here is a real feather in your cap you know, not many teams can come here and win a series.”

Smith said South Africa had come close to winning a series in India two years ago when they took a 1-0 lead before the home side squared the three-match series on an unpredictable pitch in Kanpur.