x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Proteas limber up for Test opener with India

South Africa begin their quest to regain the No 1 Test team spot when they commence their tour of India with a practice match in Nagpur today.

South Africa begin their quest to regain the No 1 Test team spot when they commence their tour of India with a practice match in Nagpur today. Graeme Smith's side take on the Indian board president's XI in a two-day match 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 Eden Gardens in Kolkata from February 14 - could be one of the most important the Proteas have played in recent years.

South Africa, ranked No 2, 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, however, have been rocked by the recent resignation of their coach, Micky Arthur. "It's been an emotional week and not many teams go to India and win," said Smith. "The players who have been part of the set-up for a while have dealt with a few difficult things in recent years and handled them very well.

"I expect them to be as professional as normal, and I'm looking to them for responsibility and guidance for the youth." Their 15-man squad includes Alviro Petersen, the right-handed batsman, 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.

Meanwhile, Australia have named uncapped duo Travis Birt and Steve Smith in their 13-man squad for Friday night's Twenty20 international against Pakistan at the MCG. Tasmanian batsman Birt, 28, boasts a strike rate of almost 130 in the Big Bash, while Smith, the 20-year-old New South Wales all-rounder, looks to be an exciting prospect for the future and had been included in Australia's Test squad during the summer.

Michael Clarke will captain the side despite missing Sunday's final ODI against Pakistan, while Cameron White assumes the role of vice-captain. Ryan Harris, the seamer who took 13 wickets in three matches against Pakistan, has been included along with Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait. Australia will field Michael Hussey who has replaced MS Dhoni as the leading batsman in the ICC Player Rankings. Hussey scored 220 runs at an average of 73.33 to help Australia to complete a clean sweep over Pakistan.

* With agencies