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Proteas seem to have learned their lesson after defeat in first Test

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Proteas coach Mark Boucher says they are hoping to take what they learned in the first Test against Pakistan into the second clash, which starts on Thursday morning.

FILE – The Proteas are sweating over the fitness of Keshav Maharaj, pictured, and Tabraiz Shamsi ahead of the second Test against Pakistan. Picture: @OfficialCSA, Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – “Live and learn,” goes the old saying. The Proteas have sought to abide by that phrase in the days leading up to the second Test against Pakistan.

The Proteas have to beat Pakistan in Rawalpindi to square the series and to do so the batsmen primarily need to heed the lessons from the first Test.

“We spoke about the patience you need, the different mental approach, the fact that run rates are not going to be at 3.5 to 4 an over – which is what we are used to in South Africa and the fact that you have to defend with a lot of intensity,” said head coach Mark Boucher about the preparations leading into the first Test.

“Then watching (Pakistan) play on day two (of the first Test), the guys realised that what we spoke about ‘is happening right in front of us’ and so we understand how to go about batting in the subcontinent. In the second innings we showed a bit of that.”

South Africa were bowled out for a woefully inadequate first innings total of 220 on the first day in Karachi and were never able to overcome that failure as Pakistan won by seven wickets.

“You can give players as much information as you can, but the bottom line is, what is experience? Experience is sometimes having to physically go out there and experience it for yourself.”

Boucher said he witnessed a change in how the players approached training this week. “I looked at how the guys are practicing now, and there is a lot more care in keeping their wickets, a lot more intensity when they defend, not so many shots being played. The mental preparation has been good, because they’ve actually witnessed it and seen how Pakistan have played and how to put a big score together.”

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There are some injury concerns for the Proteas. Keshav Maharaj has what scans done on Tuesday indicate could be “bruising or a minor tear” in the region of his ribs. Boucher said the left-arm spinner will have to inform management about his readiness for the match.

“He bowled about 15 overs at training (on Wednesday) and felt fine, that the pain was bearable, but we are not ready to make a call on him, because you don’t know how his body will react overnight.”

Tabraiz Shamsi is the other concern, with his back problem – which led to him missing the first Test – still not entirely resolved. “It’s a red flag for me … if he does bowl a few overs, wakes up the next morning and his back is sore again and he’s not able to push through, then you are a bowler light. We have to take that into consideration,” said Boucher.

The pitch at Rawalpindi Stadium was also a mystery for the tourists – and according to Boucher for the Pakistanis too.

Traditionally Rawalpindi assists the seam bowlers – as last year’s Test there between Pakistan and Bangladesh showed when the home team’s seamers picked up 13 wickets between them. This time, Boucher noted the pitch had changed drastically between Monday and Tuesday this week. “(Four) days ago there was quite a bit of grass on the wicket and (on Tuesday) all that grass was taken off.

“It is certainly very dry. The surface looks like a lot of puzzle pieces, it might be up and down.”

Should the bounce be inconsistent, that would open the door for Wiaan Mulder – who bowls wicket to wicket – to come into the starting line-up. “He’ll also add something to the batting with the extra all-rounder position.”

The other injury concern was Dean Elgar, but having taken a pain-killer, the left-hander, came through practice without too much hassle on Wednesday.

“There’s a bit of moisture around, a lot of dew early in the morning and we’re probably not going to get a full day’s play in because it gets very dark early on,” Boucher added.

The first ball will be bowled at 7am SA time.

@shockerhess