Donald hungers for Australia challenge

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The Independent Online

Allan Donald, South Africa's most successful fast bowler, is expected to be fit for the first Test against Australia starting here tomorrow.

The 35-year-old bowler finished the weekend tour match with Western Australia with a bleeding toe, putting his appearance at the Adelaide Oval in doubt. "I'm just looking to get on the park and hopefully that will be on Friday," he said. "I'm very happy that my hunger hasn't deserted me. I feel I am more focussed and up for the challenge than I have been for a number of seasons.

"I've spent the last month working hard on my fitness and strength. I haven't had a lot of cricket, but I think I can last a Test match – no problem."

Donald emphatically denied that the problem was caused by a new pair of boots he was required to wear as part of a sponsorship deal. He said: "All this hype about the boots is a load of old rubbish."

Donald's pace colleague Makhaya Ntini seems unconcerned about the politics surrounding his likely selection.

Selectors are under political pressure to choose Ntini, the first black cricketer to play for South Africa. The selection of an all-white team to play the West Indies a couple of years ago prompted the South African Ministry of Sport to insist that at least one player of colour would be selected in future national sides.

While the opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs is of mixed race and therefore fulfils the requirement, the Proteas have conceded that leaving Ntini out of the first Test would anger Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour.

But the 24-year-old said he pays little attention to the politics. "We have a few black players that play – we have got Paul Adams [also considered of mixed race], Herschelle Gibbs," Ntini said. "For me to follow them is quite a good thing... they are my leaders and I look up to them. I treat them as one of my brothers."

Asked if the political scenario was a distraction, Ntini said: "None at all because I concentrate on one thing, I play my cricket."

The South Africa captain Shaun Pollock said that coping with the fallout of the match-fixing scandal that saw his predecessor, Hansie Cronje, banned for life, has made the team stronger.

"Pressures we've faced along the road have made us a stronger team, a more rounded team," Pollock said. "I think we're better balanced on and off the field. It has pulled the guys together and we're fighting for a common cause."

The Australia vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, dismissed speculation about Australia's vulnerability. Many experts and former players have questioned Australia's form after a lacklustre performance against New Zealand in Perth this month which saw the three-Test series end 0-0.

"There are a lot of comments from past players and people overseas," Gilchrist said. "That tells me a couple of things – one, we must be doing something right because we've got their interest, and two, a lot of those people want to see us fall down."

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