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ADELAIDE, Australia: Skipper Graeme Smith has backed legspinner Imran Tahir to trouble Australia’s left-handers as South Africa seek to establish control of the three-match series in today’s Adelaide Test.
The Proteas have made two changes for the second Test, bringing in Tahir and debutant Faf Du Plessis, following a draw in the first Test in Brisbane.
Tahir takes over from paceman Rory Kleinveldt, who was wicketless and ineffective on his Test debut in Brisbane, while Du Plessis comes in for the injured JP Duminy.
Adelaide traditionally takes spin late in the match and Smith is banking on wrist-spinner Tahir to make a valuable contribution with his wrong’un turning away from the left-handers.
Australia’s team is stacked with five left-handers among its top seven batsmen and the Proteas are banking on Tahir to make an impact after being left out of the series opener on an unresponsive Gabba wicket.
Pakistan-born Tahir, 33, has captured 26 wickets in 10 Tests since his debut against Australia in Cape Town last year and Smith is confident he will do his bit in Adelaide.
“Hopefully there’s a lot of rough (bowlers’ foot marks), not for me, but for the Australian left-handers and he’s certainly used the rough well in the times he’s played for us,” Smith said.
“He created a lot of stress for Andrew Strauss and the left-handers in England so the wrong’un turning away from the bat is not a bad option. He’s got enough to really contribute in this game.”
Smith added that Tahir must have faith in himself to stick at it over the five days of a Test match.
“Naturally, he’ll be anxious to always do well, that’s Imran’s personality, but he’s contributed in key ways for us over the last few Test matches and his role is important,” he said.
“Imran is the frontline spinner and we’ve backed him.”
Meanwhile, Australian skipper Michael Clarke yesterday denied any rift with vice-captain Shane Watson as the all-rounder was ruled out of the second Test.
Watson has been troubled by a calf injury and tried this week to prove his fitness after missing the drawn series-opener in Brisbane earlier this month.
But Clarke said doubts about Watson’s injury prompted Australia to go with an unchanged team for the second Test in Adelaide.
“He has improved a lot over the last few days... but is probably a few days short of being 100 percent,” Clarke said.
He added that his vice-captain would have time to get himself right for the third Test, which starts in Perth four days after the scheduled end of the Adelaide showdown.
“Once we got here, our intent was to give Watto every chance, as a very important player and vice-captain of the team but unfortunately we’ve run out of time,” Clarke said.
The captain dismissed speculation of a rift with Watson, stressing there was no communication breakdown with his deputy ahead of the Adelaide Test.
Clarke said he was aware of rumours suggesting he and Watson were failing to see eye-to-eye, but added that both senior players had a good personal and professional relationship.
“I know there’s been talk of that being a little bit different,” Clarke said.
“(But) not at all. We have a great relationship.
“Watto and I, our friendship and our professional relationship when it comes to captain and vice-captain, is as close as I can certainly ask for.”