The scenario of back-to-back one-day matches in the heat and humidity of June in Chennai is hardly a mouth-watering prospect. Especially given that most of the players are off a marathon World Cup and are not particularly inspired by the general lack of enthusiasm for the tournament. On a day when both teams decided to take it easy in practice, the focus was on the endurance levels of the players and both captains chose not to dwell on team changes and strategies.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Asian captain, admitted that stress levels are on the increase given the amount of cricket the Sri Lankans in the side have played in the past few months. However, he has been among the runs of late and said the general rule didn't really apply to him. "It's tough for everyone, no doubt," Jaywardene said after a nets session. "I'm taking it one game at a time. It's difficult for me to talk about the rest. If you're playing well you want to do well all the time and personally I'm enjoying it."
For his counterpart Justin Kemp the challenge is combating the rustiness facing a few members of his side, particularly those who returned home after early exits from the World Cup. "We have a few guys who haven't played in a while and rustiness is creeping in," said Kemp. "It's hard for many of us coming in after the African winter. The humidity is on the increase and one way to combat that is to give our bowlers short spells."
Kemp conceded that his side were the underdogs but said he was heartened by Shaun Pollock's warrior-like 130 at Bangalore, which not only spared his side the blushes but also injected some adrenaline into the tournament. While the series is still up for grabs the onus tomorrow will be on the Africa XI, who need to win to keep it alive.
The pitch is, according to the captains,devoid of grass and another run-fest is expected. It would be highly optimistic to expect this sun-baked surface to have any devils in it. The pitch at Bangalore, re-laid by experts from New Zealand, baffled many as it turned out to be another belter.
The captains were tight-lipped about the team composition, preferring to chalk out their final XI on the day of the game. There were no injury scares for either team, and the players with niggles and ailments - Loots Bosman, AB de Villiers and Mahendra Singh Dhoni - are expected to be fit.
Both sides had light batting sessions, with the Asian side getting the better conditions, aided by the evening sea breeze. The Africans decided to soak up what Chennai had to offer, with some trooping off to play golf. One player in the groove for a tee-off was Mark Boucher. Taking the attack to a nets bowler bowling slow left-armers from over the wicket, he unleashed a ferocious pull and the ball sailed into the tiniest gap in the miniature scoreboard perched on the roof. It had precision written all over it and it's a pity that there wasn't a million dollars at stake for that hole-in-one.