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Rudolph braced for hosts' reaction on Headingley return


If Jacques Rudolph is worried about lack of match practice before the second Test, there is considerable compensation. He is returning to the ground where he spent six seasons after turning his back on South Africa.

Rudolph was one of many in the tourists' XI, which is certain to be unchanged for the second Test starting in Leeds tomorrow, who hardly got a game at The Oval. He fielded at point or gully for most of England's two innings, where his most notable contribution was failing to snare a difficult chance offered by Matt Prior in the first innings.

Like all but four of South Africa's players, he was not required to bat as they assembled an infeasible total of 637 for 2. Rudolph, at No 6, spent two days wondering if it was worth donning his pads.

"I think a lot has been said before the series about our lack of cricket but we came with clear heads," he said yesterday. "England are the No 1 team in the world and we expect a strong fightback. They've done really well in their own conditions so we're prepared for what we'll face. It's a little bit more difficult because we're used to playing back-to-back Test matches. But we've now got nine or 10 days between.

"Gary Kirsten, our coach, is quite aware of that and has allowed us to take off days between practice. I find the intensity isn't there in the warm-up games as they are not as competitive as a Test."

Rudolph returned to South Africa's team last November after more than five years away from Test cricket. He pitched up at Yorkshire plighting his troth forever as a Kolpak player having fallen out with his homeland and their cricket. After six summers, to the surprise of nobody who doubted his original intentions, he left the county and headed for home.

"At the time when I came over here I was in a tough place and needed to rediscover my love of the game," he said. "Yorkshire gave me the opportunity and in hindsight I must say it's possibly some of the memorable years in my career so far. I got thrown into international cricket at a young age and it was nice to be in such surroundings and I became more mature as a batsman.

"I wasn't too sure what my future would hold with South African cricket. My wife qualified as a doctor over here and after three or four years we just decided to go back. The natural progression was I fortunately scored runs and here I am today."

His experiences at the ground can only help his rampant colleagues assimilate, though he reminded everyone that Headingley's reputation as a bowling paradise is sometimes misguided.

"There is a very strong perception that Headingley is a bowler-friendly wicket," said Rudolph. "But when the sun's out it's a very nice place to bat. I know there's a bit of weather about but once you're in you can get used to swing and seam movement." He has to get to the crease first.