ON an incredibly chilly mid-summer’s morning in Pretoria, England’s Stuart Broad has turned up the heat on South Africa before the first Test starts in neighbouring Centurion on Wednesday.
Broad, breaking off from a lively practice session the morning after they had been made the BBC's Sports Team of the Year for their Ashes-winning exploits last summer, warned the hosts: “This is a big opportunity for us. South Africa are a bit rusty, they haven’t played Test cricket for three months and we are feeling good as a team.
“We have to make sure we go into the first day at Centurion and hit them hard. We’re pretty confident we can.”
With England still deliberating over whether to go on the attack and play just four bowlers, Broad added: “The beauty of this England side is that we have that option. Obviously if we go in with six batters it will put pressure on the bowlers, but Jimmy Anderson and I have been opening the bowling for quite a while and we are ready to step up and take responsibility.
“I’d be happy to bat at seven if we choose that option. I’ve gone in there in three or four Tests and I have been working on my technique. I just have to get in there and get a few runs.
“What’s good about this England team is that there are players ready to step up in all situations. We just have to make sure we get off to a good start on Wednesday. That’s so important in a four-match series.”
Broad also explained why he has decided to opt out of the Indian Premier League for another season. Struggling with a shoulder injury earlier in the tour, he said: “It’s been a tough schedule. We’ve got four Tests over the next five weeks and then there’s the Bangladesh tour.
“You have to listen to your body. I’m not ruling out the IPL in the future but for now England comes first. It was always my boyhood dream to play for my country and that is my priority.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking and a lot of talking. I have to think about my body.”
While South Africa sweat over the fitness of all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who has been having oxygen chamber treatment for his broken rib, their captain Graeme Smith issued this warning to England’s Pietermaritzburg-born batsman Kevin Pietersen.
“He's made a lot of remarks about the country that I don't think he's ever apologised for.
"It's hard for people just to wash away those things and that's why people will give him a hard time. "
Pietersen (pictured) appeared undaunted in the nets yesterday at Pretoria University’s High Performance Centre, which will house Diego Maradona’s Argentina at next year’s World Cup.
He enjoyed a high-octane net with selector and former England spinner Ashley Giles and was running through his full repertoire of shots, including a “Dilshan” scoop over his own head and plenty of left-handed switch hitting.
With Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom both fit and bowling out in the middle today before the rain came down – as it has nearly every day on this tour so far - England must now decide whether to go on the offensive with the No 7 slot going to Broad or all-rounder Luke Wright.
But the indications are England are leaning towards the six batsmen option, which means Ian Bell would keep his place. Broad said simply: “We’ll leave it to the management to decide on Wednesday. It’s just great that we have that option.”
Probable team: Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Trott, Bell, Collingwood, Prior, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Sidebottom. Possible changes: Wright for Bell, Onions for Sidebottom.