1st Test: South Africa’s assistant coach says hosts looking for draw

PTI| Updated: Dec 22, 2013, 00:07 AM IST

Johannesburg: South Africa`s assistant coach Adrian Birrell today conceded that his side face a daunting task chasing 458 runs for a win in the first cricket Test against India here and said they would look for a draw on the fifth day on Sunday.

"We are playing for a draw at the moment. When we started batting, we were not looking at batting 135 overs, but just batting until tea and not losing any wicket. Then we batted through the last session, and we lost two wickets. It puts us in a good position to fight for the draw on the final day," Birrell said at the press conference after the fourth day`s play.

Asked specifically if the young Indian team has surprised the world number one Test team, the assistant coach answered in the affirmative.

"Yes they have. They are a quality side and this is a different format. They have batted well with patience," he said.

South Africa were 138 for 2 at stumps on day four, needing 320 more runs for a win on the final day tomorrow. They still have eight wickets in hand but injured Morne Morkel is in doubt to bat tomorrow after he twisted his ankle yesterday.

"We will be drawing from past experience, both from winning positions and matches where we drew games. This is a team that has done remarkable things in the past. Tomorrow, if we are only two down at lunch we can make a match of it.

"We have some remarkable players like A B de Villiers who can control the situation then. But we need to bat 85 out of 90 overs and if we do that then the match will probably go down to the wire," Birrell said.

The Proteas did not send out Jacques Kallis at number four after the fall of Hashim Amla`s wicket, instead sending Faf du Plessis. Kallis was out for a duck in first innings.

"No, we have full faith in Kallis. But he is not a young player anymore. He bowled quite a lot today and AB kept wickets the whole day, so we gave them an additional night`s rest. Also, we have full faith in Faf, who has done well in first innings and has a lot of experience. We expect both our batsmen to fight it out in the middle," said Birrell.

The trick for South Africa will be to not lose early wickets in the morning session. It might give them a chance later on in the day, whilst chasing a huge target.

"The first hour is very important. We need not to lose wickets so that it gives us the foundation to fight for rest of the day. Every session is a match in itself. We expect variable bounce tomorrow, but if batsmen get settled, then runs can come freely. So we will be playing accordingly. It is about building partnerships," Birrell said.