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South Africa seek positive end to mediocre season

Written by: Staff

JOHANNESBURG, May 4 (Reuters) South Africa are hoping to adopt a positive approach from the start of the third and final test against New Zealand tomorrow with the hosts looking to end a poor season with a series victory.

The home side hold a 1-0 lead going into the test, but batsman Hashim Amla told a news conference today that the South Africans would steer clear of negative tactics.

''We'll be going out to win, that's our first objective,'' the in-form Amla said.

''Sometimes if you set out to play for a draw you can get yourself in hot water. So we'll be looking to play positive cricket, that's our motto, and hopefully we can make it 2-0.'' The match will mark the end of a season in which South Africa crashed to defeat in five of the six tests they played against Australia.

Their hopes of ending a mediocre campaign on a high could hinge on the fitness of all-rounder Shaun Pollock and left-arm spinner Nicky Boje.

Pollock was a late withdrawal from the drawn second test against New Zealand in Cape Town with a stiff lower back, while Boje split the webbing on his right hand in the same match.

Decisions on the availability of both players are unlikely to be announced before tomorrow morning.

Amla, who scored 149 for his maiden century in the drawn second test, was hopeful for another opportunity to rack up the runs in what will be his first test match in Johannesburg.

''Playing at the Wanderers will be an interesting prospect, it's a fantastic venue,'' Amla said.

''The outfield is blitz, so it's great for batting if you can get in.'' Amla, who was left out of the side for almost 16 months before being recalled to play his fourth test in Cape Town, did not take success for granted.

''It's still early days in my career, Newlands was only my first test back,'' the 23-year-old said.

''So I'm trying to do well consistently, to get a score in every game.

''I'm not going to be making any bold claims, hopefully I will have a long career and at the moment I'm just enjoying it.'' BOND BLOW New Zealand's chances of winning the series were dealt a serious blow when a knee injury ruled out fast bowler Shane Bond before the first test in Centurion, which South Africa won by 128 runs.

Amla, however, does not expect it to be any easier without Bond in the attack.

''New Zealand are a different attack without Shane Bond, but they are above us in the rankings so they are obviously a force to be reckoned with,'' he added.

New Zealand's left-arm paceman James Franklin remained upbeat about his side's chances and insists the visitors could still square the series.

''We're very confident that we can win this one,'' Franklin said.

''Obviously the pitch in Cape Town didn't do quite what we expected it to, but we believe the two teams are very close.'' Temperatures in Johannesburg have plummeted as South Africa's winter takes hold and the New Zealanders have had to endure jokes about the weather suiting them better than the locals.

''There have been a few jibes that these are New Zealand conditions, but it does get warm there sometimes,'' Franklin said.

''We'll just have to see what the conditions are like and take it from there.

''Any international cricketer has to adjust to conditions and play the game from there.

''But we are hoping it will warm up a bit -- it's pretty nippy, and all cricketers like playing in warm weather.'' REUTERS PDS VC1540

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