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Thu Apr 24 01:35:04 SAST 2014

Donald backs quick man on slow surface

ALVIN REEVES in Colombo | 19 September, 2012 06:210 Comments
Dale Steyn training at Moors cricket ground in Colombo, Sri Lanka, ahead of South Africa's Group C World Twenty20 match against Zimbabwe at Hambantota tomorrow
Image by: PHILIP BROWN / REUTERS

SRI Lankan pitches are said to be ideal for slow bowlers but Allan Donald believes they can also suit one of the fastest.

Dale Steyn, the top-ranked bowler in test cricket but only 20th in T20, is the man Donald has in mind.

Donald, once one of the best quick men in the world and now the South African bowling coach, says it's not only Steyn's skill with the ball but his leadership qualities that will be crucial to success at the World Twenty20 being played in Sri Lanka.

Steyn took four Kiwi wickets for only 25 runs off four overs on Monday during a warm-up match ahead of the Proteas' opener tomorrow against Zimbabwe.

"He's an absolute champion," said Donald.

"He's the leader of the group.

"He acts like the leader at training . he acts like it when he gets the ball in his hand.

"Monday was one of those days again. He is in control at the moment and he's in great form. He works very hard and he leads from the front."

Just how Steyn, or any of the bowlers in tomorrow's match, will fare on the pitch at Mahinda Rajapaksa stadium is still a mystery, however, and Donald has spent the last few weeks trying to unravel its secrets.

The ground is close to Hambantota, one of the Sri Lankan towns hardest hit by the 2004 tsunami. It has hosted only six ODIs and two T20s.

In his research, Donald even picked the brain of Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan - not that Murali could help much because the pitch is new to him too. All that he could offer was that the wind howls from one end of the ground.

What might be revealing is that six of the eight international matches played at the ground have been won by teams batting first.

Also, it's not a particularly high-scoring venue, perhaps because the strip is only three years old and still unsettled.

It is a big ground with the average score being about 152, batting first.

"There are not a lot of stats to look into," Donald said yesterday.

"But teams batting first have won most of the time. We will keep our eye on tonight [Sri Lanka versus Zimbabwe, last night] and see how that goes."

It seems South Africa will play two spinners for most of the tournament, but Donald was not giving too much away.

"We will see when we get to the ground. I'd love to go and see it for myself. It's as alien to us as it is to everyone else."

Donald also suggested that the square at the ground could contribute to reverse swing.

"The squares are quite abrasive and we can expect the ball to reverse within 20 overs.

"That's something that we are targeting in a big way," he said.

South Africa will wait until just before the start of their match against Zimbabwe tomorrow before deciding on the fitness of allrounder Albie Morkel.

Morkel had back spasms during the warm-up match against New Zealand on Monday. By late yesterday though, the injury had responded to treatment.

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