PORT ELIZABETH (Reuters) - Australia captain Steve Smith won the toss and chose to bat on an overcast morning at St George’s Park on the opening day of the second test against South Africa on Friday.
Australia have picked the same team for the seventh successive test and although it appears to be a bowlers’ morning, Smith took the long view of not having to bat last on what is traditionally a pitch that aids reverse swing.
“There is a little bit of grass on it and it might do a little bit this morning, but if we can get through that and post a big first innings total then reverse swing becomes important later on,” Smith said at the toss.
Australia won the first test by 118 runs in Durban and can end South Africa’s hopes of a series victory with another win in Port Elizabeth in the four-match series.
“It was a nice start (in Durban), we played some really good cricket. We want to keep up the pressure this week,” Smith added.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis says he was torn over whether to bat or bowl and was relieved the decision was taken out of his hands.
“I was extremely happy to lose the toss,” Du Plessis said. “I was 50-50, we probably would have gone with bowling first. With the conditions today and the forecast over the next five days, it won’t get too hot so the pitch won’t deteriorate much.”
The home side have made one change to their line-up, bringing in seamer Lungi Ngidi for the more experienced Morne Morkel, who recently announced his retirement from international cricket after this series.
“We are bringing in Lungi Ngidi specifically for these conditions. Australia have not played him before ... watch out for him,” du Plessis said.
After a difficult week for both sides that saw David Warner and Nathan Lyon from Australia, and South Africa’s Quinton de Kock, fined by the International Cricket Council following the tempestuous first test in Durban, both captains expressed their relief that focus was turned back to the cricket.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wicketkeeper), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty