South Africa looking to seal the series

PA Sport
Jacques Rudolph is familiar with the Headingley pitch having played for Yorkshire

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Jacques Rudolph is familiar with the Headingley pitch having played for Yorkshire

South Africa are hoping to make Headingley their home from home as they threaten England's world number one Test status.

One more win, after last week's landslide success in the first Investec Test at The Oval, will give the tourists, who have captain Graeme Smith back, an unassailable series lead - with one match to play - and will mean England have lasted less than a year as official world-beaters.

In Leeds, they have another handy asset in Jacques Rudolph's local knowledge. Their number six spent five seasons as a Yorkshire batsman, before resuming a Test career which had already included a 2003 victory at this same venue.

"I had five very good years here, and I've some fond memories of playing with some really good people," he said. "It's really nice to be back here. I share a lot of sentiment in this place."

Rudolph acknowledges he owes much to Yorkshire too, for helping him make the most of his potential.

"At the time when I decided to come over here, I was at a bit of a tough place in my career and needed to rediscover my love for the game," said the 31-year-old left-hander. "The opportunity was given to me by Yorkshire, and it was five of the most memorable years in my career so far.

"I got thrown into international cricket at a really young age and didn't really always know how to cope with it. In these surroundings, I learned about myself and became more mature as a batsman."

Rudolph will tell his team-mates, several of whom will be aware in any case after figuring in at least one of South Africa's two successive Test wins here, not to get carried away with Leeds' reputation for seam and swing.

"There is a perception that Headingley can be a bowlers' venue. But as a batsman, when you get yourself in on this wicket you can go big.," he said.

Back to the present, Rudolph knows South Africa will be wise to be wary of an England fightback - and careful to avoid complacency. He said: "Our challenge will be to get off the wave of the first Test match, from a mental point of view."

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