London: Allrounder Jacques Kallis says that South Africa are ready for their battle for Test cricket supremacy in a three-match series against England, despite what some critics believe has been inadequate preparation time.
South Africa, aiming to knock England off their perch as the number one-ranked Test side, have had only one two-day game and one three-day match – both of which were rain-affected – but Kallis said the team was nevertheless "in a great space". "The guys feel that if the Test match started a couple of days ago it would have been perfect," Kallis said at the Oval on Tuesday.
"As far as preparation is concerned the guys have got exactly what they wanted out of it. Today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) are just top-up days."
Kallis added that he expected the series to boil down to which team played the key moments better, with the two sides boasting probably the two best bowling attacks in world cricket. "It's going to be an interesting battle to see who comes out on top. Both sides have got good batters as well. It's going to be a fantastic series."
He insisted the South Africans had not picked out any England bowler as a particular threat. "You've got to respect every bowler and every ball that comes your way. We will have to be on the top of our game to make sure we don't give away any soft wickets."
Kallis said he was not concerned that South Africa have lost all three of their previous Tests at the Oval nor that his personal batting record on three previous tours was relatively poor. He averages 29.30 in England compared to an outstanding overall Test average of 56.78. "I don't think there is a reason why we haven't played well here," he said. "We've got to do what we've been doing for the last couple of weeks and not worry about the ground or the opposition."
Kallis preferred to concentrate on what he described as "fond memories" of the 2008 tour when South Africa had already clinched the series before they lost the final Test at the Oval. Of his own record in England, he said: "I couldn't tell you why that is. I'm not someone who worries too much about what happened in the last innings or on previous tours. You don't get a head start if you've done well in a previous innings or previous tours. You start with nought behind your name. It's not like Formula One where you get pole position."
Kallis said South Africa had an extra incentive to do well in England, both to pay tribute to captain Graeme Smith and close friend and long-serving wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. Smith will be playing in his 100th Test at the Oval while Boucher suffered a career-ending eye injury in a warm-up match against Somerset in Taunton
"It's a special achievement to play 100 Tests," he said of Smith. "He's been captain for most of them as well which an incredible effort. He's contributed massively."
Kallis admitted the injury to Boucher, who was hit in the left eye by a bail, had affected him deeply. "It was a sickening blow. Standing next to him, seeing it and hearing it wasn't nice. It took a couple of days for myself and some of the other guys to get over it but we've heard positive reports from back home. He's at the back of our thoughts but he wants us to play good, hard cricket. It probably brought the team a lot closer together so, even if he's not with the team, in a strange way he's still having an influence."