Kirsten defends battled Proteas' preparation

CHLOE SALTAU
Last updated 08:25 23/11/2012
Kirsten, Smith
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Gary Kirsten and captain Graeme Smith.

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Whether it was down to bad luck or bad management, South Africa had a very bad day. By the end of it, Jacques Kallis had a strained hamstring and coach Gary Kirsten was forced to defend the decision to take a holiday between matches.

Kallis was cleared on Thursday night to bat in this test with a grade-one hamstring strain, but he will not be allowed a runner under ICC rules, and his influence with the ball has already been badly missed.

The bad news started at breakfast, when Kirsten was informed that paceman Vernon Philander had woken up with back spasms and couldn't bend over. The coach phoned Rory Kleinveldt, the only spare fast bowler in the squad, and told him to get ready.

Disaster struck in the first session when Kallis, the champion all-rounder and South Africa's most pivotal player, pulled up lame during this fourth over, collected his hat and sunglasses and walked off.

He joined Philander at hospital for scans on his hamstring. ''We're waiting for those results and we hope he'll be ready for the next test,'' Kirsten said.

The 37-year-old had taken the wickets of Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting, and things unravelled for the South Africans almost from the moment he left the field.

Captain Graeme Smith, short of bowling options, had no choice but to persist with inconsistent leg spinner Imran Tahir, whose 21 overs went for 159. Tahir's confidence looked shot when David Warner and Michael Clarke feasted on his bowling after lunch. At the end of a particularly merciless over, when Warner smashed him straight over his head for six, Smith slung a consoling arm around his shoulders.

Kleinveldt is still searching for his first test wicket while Faf du Plessis's first ball, a full toss from the part-time leggie, was heaved into the construction zone by Warner.

Kirsten described the day as one of the toughest of his tenure, but defended the preparation. Players dispersed to the Great Barrier Reef and the Sunshine Coast instead of the nets, while Kirsten flew home to South Africa to spend time with his young family.

''It's not an exact science,'' Kirsten said. ''You can always find a way to criticise but we've had a long year and the second and third test matches coming up are back-to-back, so we didn't feel four days off was too much to give to the players, they have put in hard yards for us this year.

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''We had two really big days of training coming into this test match and two top-up days, and Vernon Philander actually commented it was the most he'd bowled in preparation for a test, so maybe he bowled too much and that's why he got the injury.

''We do the best we can to make the decision that is the best for the team. Sometimes we put in a lot more effort. In our preparation for Brisbane we set a very strong foundation ... but we also like to create times when we give guys [time] off. We don't always get it right but we give it our best shot.''

Kallis, given his age and workload, sat out South Africa's final, optional training session.

''Jacques Kallis has earnt the right to prepare the way he needs to prepare,'' Kirsten said. ''He's been the consummate professional over 20 years of cricket and he's a great performer. The fact he picks up a niggle, a hammy that he's never done, we could do a case study on that, but I guess these things can happen.''

South Africa had to play with 10 men in Brisbane after JP Duminy ruptured his Achilles in a training accident, and there was yet another scare on Thursday when Dale Steyn left the field after reaching for his leg. He returned to bowl Mike Hussey for 103 with the last ball of the day, by which time the Australians had piled on 5-482 and Clarke had soared to his second double century in as many matches.

''The Australian batsmen certainly put us under pressure on a good wicket and created some very fast momentum and in that situation it's difficult to pull it back,'' Kirsten said. ''We're playing against a guy who's in serious form, we looked at him closely in preparation for this test match, and we need to go back and look again.''

- The Age

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