South Africa in Australia 2012-13 October 27, 2012

Smith ready for 'unique challenges' in Australia


South Africa's preparations for their three-Test tour of Australia have hit a speed bump. The team management asked for their three-day practice match in Sydney to be played at venue closer to the first Test in Brisbane, without success.

"We tried hard to move it from Sydney but we haven't had any luck," Graeme Smith, the South Africa Test captain, said prior to the team's departure. "But we'll have to get stuck in and make it count no matter where we play it. We are not going to be able to use that as an excuse."

With no Test matches between the two countries taking place over the festive season, South Africa will play at the Gabba for the first time since readmission. They have only ever played three Test matches at the venue, the last one being in 1963, and lost two of them.

Despite the hiccup in preparation, Gary Kirsten believes the squad will be ready to take on Australia. "We went to England in the same way. We wanted to prepare really well. We didn't want to say too much, we wanted to make our performances count because in a three-match series, one session can make a big difference," Kirsten said.

As was the case with South Africa in England earlier in the year, they may be accused of being undercooked in Australia. Of the touring party, six have not played any competitive cricket since the squad returned from England. Smith, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Robin Peterson and JP Duminy were given time off, while AB de Villiers has been recovering from a chronic back injury. Morne Morkel, Thami Tsolekile, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis and Jacques Rudolph all took part in the Champions League T20, while Vernon Philander, Rory Kleinveldt and Imran Tahir have played some first-class cricket.

But Kirsten has maintained that action on the field is not as important as the mental aspect of getting ready. Smith believes the team has done as much as they can in that regard. "We know we are going to face some unique challenges in Australia and we will be ready for them," he said.

One of those will be going up against the man who put the foundations in place for their ultimate rise to No.1: Mickey Arthur. Under him, South Africa won in both England and Australia in 2008 and 2009, and his knowledge of the South Africa team may give Australia the advantage. Smith does not see it as too much of a hurdle.

"As a South African, It's not something new that we have had to face [one of our own in another team]. I suppose, if we can put Australia under pressure, we know how Mickey is going to be reacting in the change room. But if I lose sleep over what Mickey is telling Australia that will affect the team," he said.

The other challenge is the battle of the pace attacks. As was the case ahead of the tour to England, this series is being dubbed the battle of the quicks and South Africa have chosen to go in with only their top three and one backup in Kleinvedlt. Some of Australia's options have been on display in the Champions League with Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins providing a taster for the big meal.

The difference between the two packs could be lack of certainty about who will line-up in Australia's, according to Smith. "We know Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle are their two main guys and they may rotate the youngsters. So it's also a little bit of an unknown, in terms of who they are going to play," Smith said. "It's all guys that we have come across before, though. We have got a really good pace attack as well and hopefully they can attack. Brisbane and Perth could be quite fiery from the sounds of things. We know our attack has the opportunity to exploit things."

While there was suggestion in Australian media that Smith said the South African bowlers will target Ricky Ponting, Smith has denied making any such comments. "I don't look to put his head on a mantelpiece. He has done well and he deserves all the respect in the world. Our job is to go there and make sure that he doesn't perform," Smith said. "With our bowling attack, we need to be able to put all the Australia batsmen under pressure. We do have a proven bowling attack that has travelled the world and done well, so we are not going headhunting."

Instead, South Africa will focus on stopping an Australian side that Smith said will be bullish. "They are on a momentum shift and an upward curve, and they would believe they are going to beat us there, but it's well known that we've got some really quality players as well."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sello on October 30, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    @Marcio- lol you remind of landl47 during the Eng-SA series. "Philander will struggle, Philander was lucky to play on green tracks, Philander this, Philander that" blah blah blah we've heard all that before and the results remained the same. So I've got one thing to say to you: get used to it.

  • sam on October 30, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    A good contest between the two best sides in the world by some margin. Aus are ahead in the pace bowling aspect with an array of sparkling young talents and all of them being genuine quick 140+ . Not so lucky atm with the batting side esp. the young ones and the big three again have a big job at hand .SA are a better batting unit as a whole with spin unlikely to play a big part. Aus go in as favourites with the pitches likely aid bounce,carry and bit of seam and remain pretty quick. The big three need to play to potential and the rest have to put valuable runs for the pacers. If they so it consistently Aus will win 2-0 maybe 3-0. Expecting a good one though with SA no less a class of their own an a tight contest.Waiting for the champ-Punter to reel off a ton or 2 carrying on from last summer and hope Watto make a big 100 and live to his potential at last. Go Aus r the best...

  • Mashuq on October 29, 2012, 22:12 GMT

    The last series' result of 1-1 could easily have been 2-0 to SA. Oz needs to strike using 4 quicks with Starc targeting Smith and Kallis, using his angle. SA will not risk Tsolekile, so AB won't get much with the bat given his lack of game time. It's all up to the Oz batting to get that win next week. Once SA gets things sorted out we just might get another 1-1, otherwise I fear the worst.

  • Helmut on October 29, 2012, 20:32 GMT

    De Javu with all the over-confident Aussies on here. Doesn't they sound just like landl47 and the rest of the barmy army posse before the ENG series? Some people never learn, I guess. The way I see it, SA have only 3 important wickets to get...Ponting, Hussey and Clarke! That's not to say that Warner, Watson and the others won't bat well. Just that Aus' runs will most likely come from these 3. SA, on the otherhand, have Smith (contrary to marcio, jonesy et al's believe, when Smith score big SA win...end of), Amla, Kallis and de Villiers. You could almost add Duminy to that quartet (given his exploits the last time) but in fairness lets put him with the other possibles ie Petersen and Rudolph. What sets the SA bowling attack apart from Aus is what they achieved in that 1st Test in ENG. Or Nagpur when last they toured India. The new ball will be key in this series for both sides, but will Aus be able to come back if it doesnt work and expected to work hard for their wickets?

  • Dummy4 on October 29, 2012, 15:02 GMT

    Marcio why are you against philander? He is doing well and that is because of hard work, not luck. If there is movement he will find it and if he don't no one will. He swings the ball as well and puts it in the correct area most of the time. Pace do not gaurantee wickets but movement and swing does and hitting the correct areas.

  • Jesinthan on October 29, 2012, 10:00 GMT

    Marcio it wasn't luck that made Philander achieve what he achieved.

  • disco on October 29, 2012, 9:02 GMT

    @sachin_vvsfan, maybe, but last time we only had Hilf and Sid v1.0 and Johnson. This time we have Hilf and Sid v2.1 and Starcy.

  • VINODK on October 29, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    @Cpt Meanster, Absolutely true man. Some people just believe their own hyperbole

  • R on October 29, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    @ screamingeagle : On the contrary, I think Ricky Ponting will do well.It is the back-up guys who have to support him. I am not so sure about Hussey,but the openers are going to struggle, Shane Watson's recent CL T20 exploits notwithstanding.

  • rathnam on October 29, 2012, 5:02 GMT

    Very eager to see the test match between the two strongest team.Aus is having very good pace attack but when compared to Steyn and Morkel they are bit behind.and the result will be 2-0 on SA favour.but hope that aus ll not leave the s.africans to get that very easily.

    comeon Dale I want you to get five wkts atleast in every innings.

    Good Luck SA.

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