Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth December 15, 2005

'Aussies scared of losing at home,' taunts Smith

Phoney war: Ricky Ponting claims he has a good relationship with Graeme Smith © Getty Images

Australia are worried about losing a Test series at home and are under enormous pressure to perform after the Ashes defeat in England, Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, said on Thursday.

Speaking on the eve of the first Test at Perth, Smith said his players had taken heart from the Australians' reaction to the so-called "war of words" leading up to the match. "Even our comments, which were light-hearted in the beginning of the series, which were that it was obvious to see their middle-order is inexperienced in international cricket, has created a large reaction," Smith said. "So that tells us in our mind that they are also scared of losing in Australia. There is massive pressure on them and we have taken heart from that and it has certainly given us confidence going forward into the Test match."

Smith, who was clearly pumped-up for the match, denied his team had taken part in any 'sledging' before the Test despite widespread coverage of verbal barbs between the two sides. "We haven't made one comment about sledging," he said.

Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, said he had a good relationship with Smith and did not read anything into the exchanges ahead of the three-Test series. "There has been a lot said and built up about this series already," Ponting said. "There's been a few things said about off the field leading into this Test match but I think that's finished now." He said it was not his style to criticise opposing teams but added that his team had been motivated by comments from the South African camp. "I am not one for coming out and making statements about opposition players or anything like that - its just not the way I go about playing cricket," he said. "A lot of our players like that and it's pretty apparent this week that a lot of the South Africans don't mind it either.

"As far as our players go I think it's something that actually motivates them and spurs them on a little bit more. If you look at the guys that do it they are generally the guys that put their hand up when things are at their toughest and they generally rise to the bigger occasions. So I think it might be just a little way for them to motivate themselves and put a little bit more pressure on the opposition."