De Villiers hopeful Wanderers pitch will not aid Sri Lanka

Lakshan Sandakan flummoxed South Africa Associated Press

The Wanderers will look like the Wanderers on Saturday, which is hardly startling news except if you saw it two weeks ago during the second T20 between South Africa and Sri Lanka. The surface was dry, cracked and took turn, the hosts criticised it for resembling Colombo, Sri Lanka had them in the spin and levelled the three-match series.

There will be none of that again.

Even if groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi has not been given any instructions, he would have heard stand-in T20 skipper Farhaan Behardien wonder what happened to the pitch that is reputed for its bounce and carry. "We haven't quite got to the bottom of it," Behardien said, when asked if he was given an explanation for the conditions. "But it wasn't a traditional Wanderers wicket."

For the ODI it should be after captain AB de Villiers stressed the importance of making the most of local conditions. "Everywhere you play around the world teams try and cash in on home ground advantage. It's important for us to - not make it ridiculous - but to play to our strengths," he said. "That's why touring is so difficult, especially to the subcontinent and there's nothing wrong with that. They make pitches the way that they feel they've got the best chance to win. We've probably haven't got it right in that last T20 and one or two of the ODIs but this wicket looks really good."

A Johannesburg ODI is usually a run-fest, especially since South Africa started playing there in pink as part of a breast-cancer awareness project. In the four pink games since 2013, South Africa have averaged 351 and won all of them.

Specifically, de Villiers himself has taken to the change of kit. He has scored two centuries, including the fastest hundred in ODIs off 31 balls against West Indies, to average 97.50 and admits there's something about the occasion that gets him going. "I enjoy big crowds and big moments and there's a bit of hype and a lot of noise around this game." he said. "I love playing at the Bullring. Once I get going and I get to 50 or so and the crowd gets a bit louder, it gets me going as well."

A sell-out is expected on Saturday, which means more than 30,000 people will pack into the venue in anticipation of a series win. South Africa could secure the trophy with two games to play, not only to give them the opportunity for a second series whitewash at home but as part of a strategy to learn to string together victories as they would need to do at an ICC event.

"If we are going to win big tournaments, you've got to win five or six games in a row sometimes. We've got to get that habit going of winning series 4-1, 5-0, instead of 3-2 like we've done in the past because when you get to a World Cup, 3-2 is not good enough," de Villiers said.

With the Champions Trophy less than five months and only 11 matches away, de Villiers wants South Africa to start getting into good habits now and to maintain them until the 2019 World Cup. As has often been the case, de Villiers is confident South Africa have what it takes to break their trophy drought but knows the proof will only come with a cup. "The culture is stronger than ever. The guys seem to have a lot of direction and a lot of feel for where we are going as a team but our true test will be at the Champions Trophy."