July 5, 2012

'You need to want to stick it out when times are tough'

Now on his third Test tour of England as captain, Graeme Smith reflects on the achievements of 2003 and 2008
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2003 Graeme Smith was 22. He had played eight Test matches, none of them outside South Africa, when he was named the county's youngest captain. He had a few precious accolades to boast about, such as his call-up to the World Cup squad to replace Jonty Rhodes and a double-hundred against Bangladesh. He also had a burden that someone his age could not have been expected to carry with any ease: to lead a side to England and come back with something to show for it.

"I didn't have any expectation at all," Smith says to ESPNcricinfo in an exclusive interview. "I was just so nervous and I wondered how I was going to cope and how things were going to go. I didn't even know how to be."

The tour was scheduled after a relatively simple easing-in assignment against Bangladesh and started with a one-day tri-series that also featured Zimbabwe. South Africa beat their neighbours in the three matches they played against them but lost three times to England, including in the final. "We kind of stumbled our way through that one-day series. We just weren't very good," Smith remembers. "So there was a bit of pressure there already. It was more than just the pressure of going into a Test series."

Insecurity and Smith might now seem an odd couple but that was how he felt. He hid it behind layers of what seemed like arrogance because he thought that was a way of protecting himself from appearing weak. "You have your own nerves and your own stresses about how you are going to be able to handle things," he explains. "And your own worries. The players were great and very supportive throughout but the pressure of captaincy in a big series is another thing."

That anxiety eased significantly on the first day of the series, in Birmingham. Smith and Herschelle Gibbs showed England no mercy as they amassed 338 runs for the first wicket, scoring at over 4.3 runs to the over. Smith went on to break the South African record for the highest individual Test score at the time, and though the match was drawn, he emerged from it a winner, while England captain Nasser Hussain chose to step down in the aftermath.

Despite his feat in that game, Smith's most treasured memory of that tour is from the next match. He says the Lord's Test was a standout for him. "To win like we did, with Makhaya's [Ntini] ten wickets and my double-hundred, just gave me the self-confidence that I could handle the pressures. People were off my back from a 'what if' perspective. Rightly, your captaincy in a batting performance plays an important role and that really helped me establish myself."

England drew level in Nottingham before South Africa took the lead in Leeds, with an attack lacking Shaun Pollock, who had returned home for the birth of his child. "It was an exciting tour to be part of because of how the series swung," Smith says. "But the disappointing thing was not being able to hold on at The Oval. I've felt in England that by the time you get to The Oval, you're kind of drained and you've been through so much."

There was no trophy to go home with but there was pride, and for Smith there were also lessons to take back. "I realised how big the job was and how strong I needed to be to cope," he says. "I hardly slept through that series actually, especially the Test matches. It was my first taste of a big series. I discovered how much pressure there is everywhere we went. It came from the media, the public, and I learnt how important every session in the game was. I think I probably developed about three ulcers in that series."

Smith had nothing but raw talent on that first trip to England. He had to rely on his character traits to captain rather than on any real experience of leadership. "I was very determined and it got me through," he says. "I only learned the other aspects of the leadership later, through age and experience. But determination was a part of my make-up and it drove me in those early moments."

2008 Smith had captained South Africa in 18 Test series since the drawn outing in England. They won ten. Four of the six they lost were on the road, three on the subcontinent. After an indifferent start to his tenure, there was consistency. With that came a desire for more. A visit to England was a perfect opportunity to reach higher. "I was at a point in my captaincy where we needed to go to the next level as a team, and I needed to go to the next level as well," Smith says.

"I hardly slept through that 2003 series, especially the Test matches. I discovered how much pressure there is. It came from the media, the public, and I learnt how important every session in the game was. I think I probably developed about three ulcers"

Much had changed about the composition of the South Africa side. Pollock, Gary Kirsten and Lance Klusener had retired and there was a push to create a more skills-based unit. "We had made some changes in terms of bringing in more fast bowlers and going with more specialist batters in the Test side," Smith says. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel would accompany Makhaya Ntini to form a pace barrage, and Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers formed a batting core around Jacques Kallis.

There was a sense that the squad was starting to take shape, and a belief that they could achieve big things. "We had a really solid trip to India before that, which we drew one-all and we had built up results as a team," Smith says. "We were on the right path, so we arrived in England quietly confident of our ability and with a self-belief that we could do it."

As in 2003, the first Test was drawn, but this time it was South Africa who had the worst of it. Smith, Neil McKenzie and Amla all scored second-innings centuries to save the game and give South Africa momentum going into the next match, at Headingley.

Smith's moment of the tour came from "the way Ashwell [Prince] and AB batted at Headingley". Their 212-run stand set South Africa up for a big win. England came back more competitively in the third Test, at Edgbaston, where Smith played a starring role with a second-innings century that earned him a reputation as a batsman for the big occasion. That innings also caused the downfall of Michael Vaughan, who resigned the England captaincy once the series had been lost.

"Getting the hundred to win the series was awesome but I was still disappointed with the way we finished," Smith says. A loss at The Oval allowed England to pull one back and was the start of a South Africa slump that carried into the one-day series, which they lost heavily.

Still, they had breached a once-impenetrable fortress. Their Test series victory in England was the first since readmission and it put them on track for another, perhaps even greater, achievement later that year. "That was our first massive stepping stone as a team and it boosted our chances of winning in Australia," Smith says. "Looking back, I'd say it was crucial."

2012 Smith is on the brink of his 100th Test as captain and three Tests away from breaking Allan Border's all-time record. South Africa have not lost a series away from home since 2006 in Sri Lanka. They have hovered close to the top of the Test rankings for months and now have an opportunity to achieve the summit. If they do, Smith will come full circle.

"I'm very excited," he says. "I guess nothing's changed but age as this cycle comes around again. Nine years in the captaincy is a long time and there is lot of changing and time to go through different aspects as a person. I'm at peace with everything now."

Smith has gone from an inexperienced player barely into his 20s to a married man about to become a father and someone who behaves in a nurturing fashion with younger players. He shrugged off cynics to emerge a hero in England and a darling in Australia. He was vanquished after the 2011 World Cup and redeemed himself with centuries in both Tests and ODIs after. As Achilles may have asked, is there no one else he can be?

There's nothing to hide or shy away from this time. The confidence does not have to be quiet anymore because it has been earned. Smith is not afraid to say it. "There's no doubt that we are going there to win. We've got the players who can win.

"The good thing is that a few of us have been there before and we know what it takes to win in England and how difficult it is. To have the opportunity to go and do it again, with so much on the line, and to be part of a series that everyone is looking forward to is something special."

For almost a decade, South Africa have built under Smith. This series could be the fitting reward that caps it. Smith believes they have put the right pillars in place. "Consistency in selection is always a big factor of sport and we've had a similar line-up in the Test side for a while, with one or two changes here and there," he says. "We've had consistent key performers over a while and guys who understand what it takes to perform at this level, under pressure and in front of big away crowds."

Of the current squad, five players have not been on a tour of England before, but only one, Marchant de Lange, has not played on the county circuit. Alviro Petersen, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Vernon Philander have varying amounts of experience in English conditions. "To win in a country, you need to almost morph into that country," Smith said. "You need to think about how you are going to play in those conditions. That's one thing we've done really well. Wherever we've toured, we've understood how we need to play to be successful there."

The other important aspect is players feeling secure in their positions. "Role definition is a key factor," Smith says. Even Imran Tahir, whose much anticipated Test career has dwindled into a bit-part role, has adapted to play a holding role when needed. "This team as a whole is confident. We know we can be maybe 10% more and tweak our game in terms of being more dynamic and winning more, but we are confident."

Smith goes to England with years of experience behind him and his own style as a leader. On this tour he hopes to combine those with the one fundamental that has stayed with him since 2003 and that he trusts will bring him success. "It goes back to determination," he says. "You need to want to stick things out when times are tough."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • djdrastic on July 7, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    As a Saffer , I think England have the decided upper hand in both the bowling and batting department and I think that suits us pretty well.We love to be underestimated.

    Kallis will be key for us . He is just so important for us with both bat and ball.If he's off song I don't think we have a chance in hell.

  • B.C.G on July 7, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    @jb633-Hoggard isn't there anymore.Morkel is.@5wombats-Wouldn't a "specially created" pitch for Steyn and friends' have benefitted England's bowlers?Saf just were better overall.If Swann's elbow is serious welllll............

  • Aamod on July 7, 2012, 4:32 GMT

    Big chance for SA & Smith to cross the line between just-below-the-best and being the best! This has been billed as the best contest of the year, should live up to the hype.

  • SATID on July 7, 2012, 1:39 GMT

    England have performed exceptionally well against exceptionally average opponents. This will be there 1st real 'test' as team in 24+months. A faltering AUS team hardly a measure never mind the hapless WI team. Let us just keep fingers crossed the cr....y English weather does not spoil it for all of us.

  • S-Matrix on July 6, 2012, 19:28 GMT

    @B. C. G. all true, except that the series is being played in ENGLAND this time. Like it or not, Anderson, Broad and Bresnan are a handful in English conditions, while the batting line up has been scoring 400's with ease at home as well.

  • 5wombats on July 6, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    @JustOUT - sir, you are factually incorrect; "has they never beaten SA in test series at home". Not only have England beaten South Africa at home (1998. 2-1), England have also beaten South Africa away (2004-5. 2-1). If you were a South African you would know that. We suspect that you are not South African. @JustOUT - with your amazing knowledge can you tell us please how many Test series india have won against South Africa in South Africa?

  • 5wombats on July 6, 2012, 18:01 GMT

    @B.C.G - England "owned" in South Africa, eh? So - why was it that Eng and SA went into the fourth and final test at Jo'burg in 2010 with England one-up in the series and SA so desperate to force a tie that they "specially created" a pitch there for Steyn and friends. This isn't conjecture. This is historical fact. If you were actually a saffer you'd know this. If you don't believe us - ask one, there are plenty here. "owned". LOL...

  • jb633 on July 6, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    @B.C.G- yeah true Cook did have a poor series against SA, but then Smith was made to look stupid by Hoggard in 04/05. Every player has a bad tour here and there, overall though Cook is by far the better prospect. Fact.

  • yorkshirematt on July 6, 2012, 11:27 GMT

    Just because the saffers won here in 2008 doesn't mean they will in the present. Records are there to be broken and this England side have done so in the past and will do again. The aussies had won here countless times before 2005. India won here in 2007 but we all know what happened last year. Then we had England winning in Australia after about 20 years. Also why are people expecting England to be the same side that scraped a draw in 2009/10? England are better now. It's called improvement and progression and is what a team is supposed to do as it develops. This series is too close to call so all predictions are pointless. Also I read a comment on here saying that a drawn series will give SA no.1. Is this true?

  • B.C.G on July 6, 2012, 9:19 GMT

    @English fans-Cook>Smith.This is surely a joke right????In the previous series Morkel owned both Cook & Strauss.From memory Cook only scratched one 100 in Durban & did nothing else while Smith scored abt 350+runs overall.Previously England managed a 1-1 result due to 1 fella-P Collingwood & he has retired.Who has taken his place?????????Basically the same English lineup was mediocre the last time & with the addition of Philander.......no chance

  • djdrastic on July 7, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    As a Saffer , I think England have the decided upper hand in both the bowling and batting department and I think that suits us pretty well.We love to be underestimated.

    Kallis will be key for us . He is just so important for us with both bat and ball.If he's off song I don't think we have a chance in hell.

  • B.C.G on July 7, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    @jb633-Hoggard isn't there anymore.Morkel is.@5wombats-Wouldn't a "specially created" pitch for Steyn and friends' have benefitted England's bowlers?Saf just were better overall.If Swann's elbow is serious welllll............

  • Aamod on July 7, 2012, 4:32 GMT

    Big chance for SA & Smith to cross the line between just-below-the-best and being the best! This has been billed as the best contest of the year, should live up to the hype.

  • SATID on July 7, 2012, 1:39 GMT

    England have performed exceptionally well against exceptionally average opponents. This will be there 1st real 'test' as team in 24+months. A faltering AUS team hardly a measure never mind the hapless WI team. Let us just keep fingers crossed the cr....y English weather does not spoil it for all of us.

  • S-Matrix on July 6, 2012, 19:28 GMT

    @B. C. G. all true, except that the series is being played in ENGLAND this time. Like it or not, Anderson, Broad and Bresnan are a handful in English conditions, while the batting line up has been scoring 400's with ease at home as well.

  • 5wombats on July 6, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    @JustOUT - sir, you are factually incorrect; "has they never beaten SA in test series at home". Not only have England beaten South Africa at home (1998. 2-1), England have also beaten South Africa away (2004-5. 2-1). If you were a South African you would know that. We suspect that you are not South African. @JustOUT - with your amazing knowledge can you tell us please how many Test series india have won against South Africa in South Africa?

  • 5wombats on July 6, 2012, 18:01 GMT

    @B.C.G - England "owned" in South Africa, eh? So - why was it that Eng and SA went into the fourth and final test at Jo'burg in 2010 with England one-up in the series and SA so desperate to force a tie that they "specially created" a pitch there for Steyn and friends. This isn't conjecture. This is historical fact. If you were actually a saffer you'd know this. If you don't believe us - ask one, there are plenty here. "owned". LOL...

  • jb633 on July 6, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    @B.C.G- yeah true Cook did have a poor series against SA, but then Smith was made to look stupid by Hoggard in 04/05. Every player has a bad tour here and there, overall though Cook is by far the better prospect. Fact.

  • yorkshirematt on July 6, 2012, 11:27 GMT

    Just because the saffers won here in 2008 doesn't mean they will in the present. Records are there to be broken and this England side have done so in the past and will do again. The aussies had won here countless times before 2005. India won here in 2007 but we all know what happened last year. Then we had England winning in Australia after about 20 years. Also why are people expecting England to be the same side that scraped a draw in 2009/10? England are better now. It's called improvement and progression and is what a team is supposed to do as it develops. This series is too close to call so all predictions are pointless. Also I read a comment on here saying that a drawn series will give SA no.1. Is this true?

  • B.C.G on July 6, 2012, 9:19 GMT

    @English fans-Cook>Smith.This is surely a joke right????In the previous series Morkel owned both Cook & Strauss.From memory Cook only scratched one 100 in Durban & did nothing else while Smith scored abt 350+runs overall.Previously England managed a 1-1 result due to 1 fella-P Collingwood & he has retired.Who has taken his place?????????Basically the same English lineup was mediocre the last time & with the addition of Philander.......no chance

  • mahjut on July 6, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    Kallis may not have great figures in England but i'm sure if someone (not me) does a cumulative averages check of his series in England - Kallis gets better and better... and will do again this time no doubt! anyway, i like smith but this title quote induces a wry smile for me as a Zimbo - don't all dictators feel like that. I think what you need to want most, Smithy, is to recognise when a bad situation will not get better ... and move aside. As it happens, i don't think that time is now - i don't see an SA captain in waiting - AB!? Amla!? mmm, neither for me atm thanks!

  • 07sanjeewakaru on July 6, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    Should've been five as it was

  • JustOUT on July 6, 2012, 1:12 GMT

    Guys.. you cannot say Kallis is mediocre in England. May be this can be his series. No one batsman in the current SA or Eng can match even is bowling records. If you consider the history, then I can easily say England cannot win this series, has they never beaten SA in test series at home. does it make sense? I dont know how ppl say Cook is better than Smith.. hilarious. No doubt Cook is in golden form since Ashes 2010-11, but Smith is he man for the occassion and he has time and again proved that. check out the highest run scorer top 3 batsman in 4th innings.

  • Cantbowlcantbat on July 5, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    I can't wait for this series! I'm keen to find out which side is South Africa A and which is South Africa B!

  • jb633 on July 5, 2012, 23:37 GMT

    @JustOut, come on Cook is so much better than Smith. In terms of the rest, Strauss is better than Peterson, Amla and Trott are even stevens, Kallis is better than Bell and AB and KP are evenly matched I think. Prior is x2 the player Boucher has ever been but I think SA hold the cards in the fast bowling department. Swann is far far better than Tahir though. It should be a great contest, but unfortunatley I think the weather may get the better of this series. The greatest flaw of this country has always been, and will always be, the weather.

  • Humdingers on July 5, 2012, 22:31 GMT

    Until a team wins all over the world in each region, they can not lay claim to the no.1 title. India can't until they win I'm Aus and SA (they did win the series in Eng befor the 4-0 drubbing - albeit with a completely different makeup); Eng, until they win in the sub content; SA have won series all over the world, they now just need to win at home :) England are overrated (yes they are) and SA should win this series. The "choke" factor is the only thing that can stop them, but under Kirsten, I think they may have found a way, mentally.

  • teo. on July 5, 2012, 20:49 GMT

    @ Valavan .. I wouldnt go as far to undermine the SA batsmen as you describe.. However, I agree on the bowlers holding the key. SA have the better quicks, better balance, better aggression, better experience... however Eng have Swann who is great. SA have the best away record of all teams, while Eng have been tough on their own soil... so all in all, this may come down to key moments in the matches... and I believe the SA'cans have an edge in that regard. They travel better than anyone else, and beat Eng in Eng the last time

  • on July 5, 2012, 19:59 GMT

    SMITH IS A DIFFERENT TYPE LEADER.HE IS A FIGHTER.SA ARE A GOOD SIDE AND THE FORTHCOMING SERIES SHOULD BE A GOOD ONE.THE ENGLISH ARE GOING TO RELISH THE TOP PERFORMERS.LETS HOPE MOTHER NATURE DOES NOT DISTURB PLAY TOO MUCH.

  • RashadBanna on July 5, 2012, 18:07 GMT

    If any series deserved five tests other than the Ashes than this is it. Maybe also South Africa vs Australia. Best wishes Smithy, hope you can beat the Poms!

  • AK_25 on July 5, 2012, 17:24 GMT

    I think SA is the only team who play well in seaming and spinning condition around the world than any other team.......and they are always a consistent no 2 in ranking.....n the reason propably they get few tests to play than Aus,Eng and Ind .....in nxt 5 yrs ICC calender..they ll play around 70-80 tests where AUS Eng IND ll get around 90 tests..

  • Valavan on July 5, 2012, 17:21 GMT

    @JustOUT, head to head or tail to tail doesnt matter, who puts a team show is the one that matters, Smith = Strauss + Cook, haha funny, Smith is nowhere near his shadow, Smith is just less than Cook, Bell is the better player than ABD in England, ofcourse it will be a bowlers battle, so whoever plays as team will emerge. Kallis having mediocre ave down in England, so KP will nullify him.cricinfo please publish.

  • TommytuckerSaffa on July 5, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Outrageous thats only a 3 match test series. Just cant believe it, what are these adminstrators thinking!!!! Cant we get rid of them or vote them off or something. 5 match T20 series against Bangledesh and Zim - but we only 3 tests againsts the no.1 test time in world. crazy.

  • the_wallster on July 5, 2012, 15:02 GMT

    I remember the last time we played South Africa. The 2009-10 series. The series ended 1-1 from 4 Tests, and everybody from the press to the punters, captains included, stated that they wished it had been a 5-match Test series. So what do the punters get this time. THREE TESTS!?!?! We get one FEWER after the superb meeting between the two sides previously?! Honestly. Sometimes cricket really does shoot itself in the foot. South Africa should win this one because it is across just 3 Tests. They're not really a 'Series' as such because so few matches are being played, and Safrica are in their comfort zone with three. A proper Test series is 4-5 matches, and if it went this long, England would out-last them.

  • JustOUT on July 5, 2012, 14:49 GMT

    @Romanticstud - Cannot compare Smith,Amla,Kallis,ABD vs Struass, Cook, trott & Pieterson. Smith is more than capable of both Struass & Cook combined in batting. He has time and again proved that. Amla is equal to Trott and Kallis is way ahead of Pieterson. ABD is way ahead of Bell. I don't know why Tahir is weak link in SA. He should be better than Paul Harris. In bowling dept, SA pace bowling is way ahead of Eng bowling. So, on Team comparision.. SA is stronger. But, since Eng is playing at home, the adv is with Eng.

  • Seether1 on July 5, 2012, 14:22 GMT

    @popcorn:Australia under Michael Clarke has NEVER beaten South Africa IN Australia :)

  • mojo101 on July 5, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    Giovaughn Wilson - the truth of the matter is that you wouldn't get tickets for either

  • on July 5, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    @Hammond on (July 05 2012, 12:31 PM GMT), nah its test cricket Proteas dont choke. 2 - 0 Proteas, England with their usual choke.

  • Hammond on July 5, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    England 2-1. SA to choke again.

  • instigator on July 5, 2012, 12:11 GMT

    i think the most disappointing thing about this tour it that it would only be a 3 test series. it would of been great to see them in 5 test seeing that the number 1 spot is up for grabs

  • popcorn on July 5, 2012, 11:58 GMT

    South Africa under Graeme Smith has NEVER beaten Australia IN South Africa. Being an Aussie, I certainly hope his Team beats the Poms, who have pseudo Poms - (Saffers really) in their Team.

  • Romanticstud on July 5, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    Paper is telling that SA is the best team in the world ... Reality says England is ... Smith, Amla, Kallis and De Villiers have all got good test match pedigree along with Steyn, Philander, Morkel with the ball ... but what is the mountain of England ... Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell with the bat ... Anderson, Broad, Bresnan and Swann with the ball ... now ... whos to say paper will win the day ... Smith must be one of the top batsmen in English conditions ... hopefully he can show his form again ... Kallis has been disappointing in England with an average of 29.3 at a strike rate of 42.46 and without a 100 since 1998 ... So the series is a much anticipated struggle to see who will emerge as No 1.

  • on July 5, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    To show how excited i am about this series even as a neutral JAMAICAN in our 50th year of independence, If i could be in England later this month I would find it VERY difficult to decide whether to see Blake, Bolt, Powell, Frazer-Pryce, Cambbell Brown, Stewart as well as Felix & Jetter tearing up the track in the sprint events @ the Olympics or to go watch Smith, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers , Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell & Prior vs Steyn, Morkel, Philander, de Lange , Anderson, Broad, Bresnan, Finn / Onions, as well as Swann. I doubt there has ever been a test series before this where both the bowling & batting has so many proven & potential high class performers

  • Gordyjh on July 5, 2012, 10:02 GMT

    I agree with everyone here - it should've been a 5-match series. What on earth are you talking about, Cpt.Meanster "boredom normally associated with test match cricket?" The tip & run and hit & giggle formats are dull because you can usually tell the result from before halfway, whereas test matches sustain tension and excitement for up to 5 days - especially between 2 evenly matched teams like England and South Africa. I'm looking forward to a great series and hope we're still number 1 at the end!

  • pranab708 on July 5, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    All the best to Smith and his team. Special support to their pace battery, as I'm huge fan of Steyn & Morkel and Philander is a welcome addition. This should be a cracker of a series. The talent on display from both sides is simply awesome.

  • Cpt.Meanster on July 5, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    I really think the South Africans have a very good chance to beat England here and take the no.1 test team title. For a starter, SA have the BEST seam attack on the planet along with a pretty decent middle order. The only weak link I see is Imran Tahir being the lone spinner for them and, no he can't bat. Graeme Swann on the other hand is a world class off spinner and a handy batsman. It will be an intriguing contest no doubt and something for test cricket fans to look forward to. Perhaps this series would shake off the boredom normally associated with test match cricket.

  • S.Jagernath on July 5, 2012, 6:40 GMT

    The important fact many are failing to point out is that the South African team that toured Sri Lanka in 2006 was an under strength side,with many younger players.With the normal team,Sri Lanka would have got battered.Graeme Smith will once again be the batsmen South Africa will look to,his abilities in England are quite amazing.Dale Steyn,Vernon Philander & Morne Morkel are always a nightmare.With the possible extra swing in England,Steyn & Philander will be a treat for the viewer.A series filled with quality fast bowlers but the batting of Jonathan Trott,Alistair Cook,A.B De Villier,Hashim Amla & Graeme Smith will be important.Imran Tahir has a big task competing with Graeme Swann.The main issue though is that this series is lacking 2 more test matches!

  • RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on July 5, 2012, 6:07 GMT

    All the best Smithy. An Indian here looking forward to ur team being the best cricket team ever. Do well against some of your countrymen!!!!!!

  • JustOUT on July 5, 2012, 4:02 GMT

    All the best for Smith & team. Repeat the 2008 victory.

  • JustOUT on July 5, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    Great series coming up. With POMS form at home, It is only SA who can give them a tough chance and can BEAT THEM. Its a shame that we have only 3 tests in this series and hope rain does not wash even a single session. Each and every session will be interesting in this series. Waiting to see inform Steyn, Morkel & Vernon roaring against Eng top order and vice versa Anderson, Broad & co against inform SA top order!!

  • 1st_april on July 5, 2012, 3:57 GMT

    the REAL captain courageous....Test series wins in ENG/AUS > World Cup....SA has had problems recently in tests,especially Durban, but Smith is the most successful captain in world cricket today :-)

  • on July 5, 2012, 3:52 GMT

    i hope Greame you can do it this time...natural talented players in the current Proteas team..victory ours!!!!! Go Proteas

  • landl47 on July 5, 2012, 3:46 GMT

    Smith's record as a captain against England in 4 test series is won one, lost one (oddly, each side has won in the other's country) and drawn 2. This is possibly the last series he will captain, so it's fitting that it should be the decider. Many would say South Africa has under-achieved under Smith, given the array of talent they have had in the 9 years he has led them, but they've always been a tough side to beat. Now with perhaps the best seam attack in the world, they have a real chance to take the #1 spot. It should be a great contest, but it's maddening that it's only three tests. The battle for top test team is worth more than that.

  • on July 5, 2012, 3:44 GMT

    100 tests as Captain is a huge thing for anyone and for u it is no different..Smith will surely go on to achieve great stuff..And even if he does not..come on his record already speaks for itself..only thing is not many people hear it..but he has accomplished most of the stuff that he could have..

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  • on July 5, 2012, 3:44 GMT

    100 tests as Captain is a huge thing for anyone and for u it is no different..Smith will surely go on to achieve great stuff..And even if he does not..come on his record already speaks for itself..only thing is not many people hear it..but he has accomplished most of the stuff that he could have..

  • landl47 on July 5, 2012, 3:46 GMT

    Smith's record as a captain against England in 4 test series is won one, lost one (oddly, each side has won in the other's country) and drawn 2. This is possibly the last series he will captain, so it's fitting that it should be the decider. Many would say South Africa has under-achieved under Smith, given the array of talent they have had in the 9 years he has led them, but they've always been a tough side to beat. Now with perhaps the best seam attack in the world, they have a real chance to take the #1 spot. It should be a great contest, but it's maddening that it's only three tests. The battle for top test team is worth more than that.

  • on July 5, 2012, 3:52 GMT

    i hope Greame you can do it this time...natural talented players in the current Proteas team..victory ours!!!!! Go Proteas

  • 1st_april on July 5, 2012, 3:57 GMT

    the REAL captain courageous....Test series wins in ENG/AUS > World Cup....SA has had problems recently in tests,especially Durban, but Smith is the most successful captain in world cricket today :-)

  • JustOUT on July 5, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    Great series coming up. With POMS form at home, It is only SA who can give them a tough chance and can BEAT THEM. Its a shame that we have only 3 tests in this series and hope rain does not wash even a single session. Each and every session will be interesting in this series. Waiting to see inform Steyn, Morkel & Vernon roaring against Eng top order and vice versa Anderson, Broad & co against inform SA top order!!

  • JustOUT on July 5, 2012, 4:02 GMT

    All the best for Smith & team. Repeat the 2008 victory.

  • RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on July 5, 2012, 6:07 GMT

    All the best Smithy. An Indian here looking forward to ur team being the best cricket team ever. Do well against some of your countrymen!!!!!!

  • S.Jagernath on July 5, 2012, 6:40 GMT

    The important fact many are failing to point out is that the South African team that toured Sri Lanka in 2006 was an under strength side,with many younger players.With the normal team,Sri Lanka would have got battered.Graeme Smith will once again be the batsmen South Africa will look to,his abilities in England are quite amazing.Dale Steyn,Vernon Philander & Morne Morkel are always a nightmare.With the possible extra swing in England,Steyn & Philander will be a treat for the viewer.A series filled with quality fast bowlers but the batting of Jonathan Trott,Alistair Cook,A.B De Villier,Hashim Amla & Graeme Smith will be important.Imran Tahir has a big task competing with Graeme Swann.The main issue though is that this series is lacking 2 more test matches!

  • Cpt.Meanster on July 5, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    I really think the South Africans have a very good chance to beat England here and take the no.1 test team title. For a starter, SA have the BEST seam attack on the planet along with a pretty decent middle order. The only weak link I see is Imran Tahir being the lone spinner for them and, no he can't bat. Graeme Swann on the other hand is a world class off spinner and a handy batsman. It will be an intriguing contest no doubt and something for test cricket fans to look forward to. Perhaps this series would shake off the boredom normally associated with test match cricket.

  • pranab708 on July 5, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    All the best to Smith and his team. Special support to their pace battery, as I'm huge fan of Steyn & Morkel and Philander is a welcome addition. This should be a cracker of a series. The talent on display from both sides is simply awesome.