Proteas get familiar with pink ball

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There isn’t a party quite like a Melbourne jol with all its hipster coffee shops, rooftop bars and swanky night clubs and the city certainly was buzzing in all its glory on Thursday.

And unlike when the South African team were most recently in “the world’s most liveable city” for last year’s World Cup tie against India when they could hardly set foot out of their plush hotel by the side of the Yarra River due to the Indian “paparazzi” lurking outside, the Proteas had the freedom of the town Thursday.

It certainly was well-deserved after the heroics at the Bellerive Oval which ensured Faf du Plessis’s men will sit alongside West Indian greats like Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Viv Richards, Michael Holding and Joel Garner in the record books as the only teams to have won three consecutive Test series in Australia for the past 100 years.

The desire of the Proteas Class of 2016 has though not been satisfied yet. They have made it their mission to be the first team ever – something not even those Windies legends achieved – to whitewash the Aussies 3-0 in a Test series on home soil.

It would be a truly remarkable achievement and this is why Du Plessis and his team have held back their celebrations. The “Treble” may have done and dusted, but the preparation to go down in history as “The Invincibles” will begin in earnest on Friday at the MCG.

The Proteas will hope to get as much as possible from their practise session under lights Friday after Saturday’s warm-up match against a Victoria XI has now been reduced to a one-day affair. They have though played a warm-up game under the floodlights already on this tour, but will hope to maximise their time on Friday in order to acclimatise to match conditions with the pink ball ahead of their inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval next week.

With selection chief Linda Zondi saying this earlier week "I don't think we are going to change much. It's important that we maintain the stability of the squad and the structure of the starting XI" in regards to possible changes for the day-night Test, it seems like out-of-form opener Stephen Cook will take strike with Dean Elgar against the pink ball.

Due to all his struggles against all balls on this tour – Cook’s highest score is 23 thus far – the Highveld Lions captain will certainly be working extra hard in the nets over the course of the coming week. There’s no doubt it will be significant challenge for reports have indicated that the pink ball swings and seams more than the traditional red ball, especially under the floodlights, which will certainly test Cook’s technique.

It does seem that Cook has the support of the Proteas convenor thoigh. "You need to back players, it's very important. A player shouldn't walk into a match knowing 'This is the last game that I'll be playing'," Zondi said.

The training session and Saturday’s match will also be an opportunity for Tabraiz Shamsi to push his claims for inclusion in Adelaide. The uncapped Shamsi’s inclusion in the original touring squad was always with a view to unleashing the chinaman bowler under the Adelaide floodlights. However, fellow left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj has been really impressive in the two Tests he has played during this series.

Shamsi has certainly, though, been primed for a Test debut at the Adelaide Oval as he has solely been bowling in the practise nets throughout this series with a pink ball to spin bowling coach Claude Henderson behind the scenes.

“We are fortunate that we've got so much variation. If we feel Shamsi will play a role, we will definitely choose him but [Keshav] Maharaj has done well. It's a nice problem to have,” Zondi explained.

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The Proteas will play their inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval.

Original source: Proteas get familiar with pink ball

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