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Philander back to boost South Africa

Agencies
Jan 03, 2012 at 03:56am IST

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Cape Town: Vernon Philander and Alviro Petersen were recalled to boost an "embarrassed" South Africa on Monday as they aimed to bounce back from a shock defeat against Sri Lanka.

South Africa face a high-pressure, series-deciding third Test in Cape Town starting on Tuesday, in a contest the home team was expected to win easily and began with an innings victory.

But, the Proteas fell to a 208-run defeat in the second Test in Durban and must now lift themselves from the heavy loss - as the Sri Lankans did to win their first game in the long format in South Africa.

Philander back to boost South Africa

Vernon Philander and Alviro Petersen were recalled for the third Test against Sri Lanka.

"A pretty tough time (after Durban)," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said on Monday at Newlands. "An embarrassing one or two days after the Test match where you know you've let yourself down and let a lot of people down through not performing to the standards that you know you're capable of, and as a team it's about bouncing back now."

"When you win you're on top of the world and when you lose you're pretty low. You've got to take those blows and we've taken them over the last few days."

Impressive newcomer Philander, who took 24 wickets in his first three Tests, missed the Proteas' defeat in Durban after injuring his left knee but looked good at training over the weekend, Smith said, and would return to the line-up for Marchant de Lange, despite De Lange taking seven for 81 in the first innings on debut during the second Test in Durban.

Smith said the return of Philander would bring "more structure" to the South African attack.

He also said De Lange had responded well to being left out. "I think he understands where he fits in at the moment. He's growing every day as a cricketer. He's got a taste of it now and he wants to win that spot back."

Petersen replaced middle-order batsman Ashwell Prince, who was dropped from the squad completely and could be at the end of his international career. Petersen would open the batting with Smith, the captain said, and opener Jacques Rudolph, who opened in the first four Tests of the summer, against Australia and Sri Lanka, would go down to No. 6 after a lean spell up front on his return to Tests.

Still on a high after a groundbreaking win last week, Sri Lanka have injury doubts over wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Chandimal - with a bruised right elbow - and seamer Dilhara Fernando as they set sights on a first series win in South Africa. Dhammika Prasad may be considered for a fast bowling berth.

"We know it's very difficult to beat South Africa but after winning in Durban everybody has confidence," captain Tillakaratne Dilshan said.

"Fantastic if we can win the series. Normally when we come to South Africa it's a dream to win a Test match. If we can win the series it's a great achievement as a team. The past few months we had a very hard time, but everyone was hanging in there."

Dilshan had a look at a green-tinged pitch when his team arrived, after rain kept the South African indoors during the morning, but said his fast bowlers were as well-equipped to take advantage of conditions as the South Africans.

"Our fast bowlers have done a great job throughout the series," said Dilshan. "I am looking forward to their performance on this wicket."

Sri Lanka's newfound momentum after overcoming a 15-match winless streak, a nine-month delay with player salaries and that innings and 81-run loss in the first Test in Centurion could be halted by South Africa's mean record in Cape Town, however.

The Proteas have lost just three times - all to Australia - in 23 Tests at Newlands over the last two decades, and last dropped a Test here to anyone other than the Aussies in 1962.

South Africa's primary focus will be securing a first series win at home since 2008, but the Proteas will also be eager to give veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis, 36, a win at his home ground in his 150th Test. Kallis will become the sixth player to reach the milestone.

"Jakes (Kallis) has played 17 years of international cricket ... tomorrow is his 150th Test match so that's an incredible, incredible feat and something that really needs to be acknowledged," Smith said. "As an all-rounder, to play 150 Test matches at the outstanding level he's produced throughout his career is terrific."

Dilshan, meanwhile, was hoping for good news on the 22-year-old Chandimal, who started his career with two impressive half-centuries on debut in Durban as Sri Lanka gave themselves a chance at one of their most famous series wins.

"I think he will be a great loss for the team ... (but) I feel he can manage tomorrow," Dilshan said. "We will just stick to our basics. We are not thinking too much (about winning the series)."

"We just try to finish strongly in this Test match. We are not putting any extra pressure. Before we came here everyone said we were underdogs and we can't win here ... but we proved it."

The South African captain, meanwhile, said he could not fault the preparation of the players.

"Mentally, maybe we can be a bit stronger. We've had some good chats about areas where we think we have been poor."

"We can play a lot tougher cricket than we played in Durban. We can make Sri Lanka earn a few more things than what they did in Durban."

Smith said South Africa were looking forward to a good 2012 after dropping to third in the official Test rankings.

It will be a testing year for the Proteas, who have away series against New Zealand, England and Australia.

"I really believe we deserve to be at the top, with the quality we have and the results we have had around the world in the last few years," said Smith.

"We need to step it up but we know we have the capability to do that. In the next year we've got those big challenges and I believe we can compete, starting tomorrow."

Team: Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, Mark Boucher (wk), Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir

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