Pakistan v South Africa 2013-14

Smith confident despite brief preparation

Firdose Moonda

October 10, 2013

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Smith dug in to remain unbeaten at the close, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval,  2nd day, July 20, 2012
Graeme Smith is not concerned about his lack of preparation for the first Test and has a habit of coming good at the right time © Getty Images
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Graeme Smith does not feel underprepared ahead of next week's Test series against Pakistan despite being out of action since May and batting for only 30 minutes in the warm-up fixture against Pakistan A.

Smith was out lbw for 2 in the first innings of the match and did not make an appearance in the second because of workload management. South Africa chose to juggle their line-up to expose the middle and lower order to the new ball and spinners.

It leaves Smith with only two short stints of match time - he played a warm-up game for Cobras last week, in which he also scored 2, and the Sharjah warm-up - ahead of South Africa's first Test series in seven months.

Smith is confident the lack of game time will not affect the way he plays when it counts the most. "I've been following the programmes in place to make sure I can get out on the field on Monday," he said. "That is the ultimate goal, to lead in a Test match."

Those plans include careful management of his return from injury. Smith was on a personalised training schedule over the winter and made incremental progress as the series approached. On departure from South Africa he said he had "upped his cricket skills" in the last two weeks so it was about "getting mentally ready" in the UAE but he wanted to "maximise the preparation available to me".

One interpretation of that would have been to get another innings under his belt but Smith explained overload was not the answer: "Not batting today was just a management process. I've had major surgery five months ago so it's about following protocols and listening to the medical team."

He admitted he would have preferred to bat longer in his first innings but did not read too much into being the only member of the top five who did not score a half-century. "I would have liked more time out there," he said. "But it's not the first time it has happened to me and it won't be the last. That's cricket. You take the good with the bad."

Later that afternoon, Smith held a long net session with coach Russell Domingo and he is certain to have a couple more before the Test. He has been working on "quite specific" aspects of his game which include, "maybe 10 to 15 minutes with the new ball and then some spin bowling" but said it's "no different" to the way he has trained in the past. "Having toured the subcontinent and the UAE before, I understand what needs to be done," he said.

This is not the first lengthy injury layoff Smith has had. His ankle has caused him problems in the past, as recently as before last year's England series when he did not play for a while before the Tests but returned with a century in his 100th game. "Last year, I didn't spend a huge amount of time in the middle before the series but I felt good about my game," he said. "You don't get it perfect like that all the time but the motivation is there."

Smith is not the only member of the side making a comeback. Jacques Kallis has not played any cricket since the IPL, after opting out of the Champions Trophy squad, and JP Duminy's ruptured Achilles has kept him out of whites since the England tour of July-August 2012. Claude Henderson, South Africa's spin consultant, said Kallis had two net sessions before declaring himself ready for the Tests and Smith knows his premier allrounder is good to go. "Jakes has the experience - he knows what it takes to come back from a layoff."

Duminy's form - in the one-day format, the unofficial Test against India A and this match - suggests he is also ready to get on with the job. "JP has played a fair amount of cricket since his injury," Smith said. "Watching him bat in the nets, it looked like he had had a whole season out there. I am very happy with where everybody is."

Although a quick glance through the scorecard of the warm-up match will illustrate that it was nothing more than a glorified middle practice, Smith said the team were able get used to the conditions, particularly the temperature. "Apart from the match, we had two pretty tough training sessions and a lot of other work in the heat," he said. "There has been a fair amount of acclimatising. We are all feeling a little more settled under the heat than we were earlier."

The squad will travel to Abu Dhabi tomorrow and Smith hopes they will settle in quickly and get ready to do what he knows they can. "This team has the ability mentally to step it up going into a big series." History has shown Smith does too, whether he has had game time or not.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (October 13, 2013, 22:21 GMT)

Much awaited test series to begin

Posted by aa61761 on (October 12, 2013, 3:33 GMT)

Pitches are not going to be roads like last time. These pitches will be more spinner friendly than compared to the pitches England played on, because England has two good spinners (Monty & Swann) - Who South Africa has? So Pakistan does not need to worry about any repercussions if they prepare spinner friendly pitches. Saffas should get ready for the surpise. And as far as the batting average is concern, England, Australia, South Africa can score good on bouncy pitches and Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka can score ggod on spinning pitches. Asian's have problems with moving balls so does wastern sides have problem with spinning balls. Case in point 4-0 drubbing to Australia by India and 3-0 drubbing to England by Pakistan in Asia.

Posted by amumtaz on (October 11, 2013, 20:30 GMT)

The odds are stacked up against Pakistan and they are truly the underdogs. I expect South Africa to win at least one of the Test matches in the series.

Posted by gandabhai on (October 11, 2013, 20:23 GMT)

Grant king . How much brains have you got, mate ? Do you not know that it is just as difficult to score runs on a 'turner' as it is to score on a ' green top '.Not all wickets in the subcontinent are turners ,likewise , not all wickets outside the subcontinent are green tops. 'GREAT' batsmen like Ricky Ponting struggled to score runs in India.

Posted by TheProfPak on (October 11, 2013, 17:16 GMT)

Well, I won't mind drawing series with Saffers, be it due to good solid performance from Pakistani players or due to placid pitches like 2010. Pakistani batsmen need some external help like good batting pitches to get their confidence going. Remember, it's Pakistan's home series and we reserve the right to prepare pitches that suit us. Having said that, I also know that keeping SA pace battery quiet will be a daunting task for Pakistani batters.

Posted by   on (October 11, 2013, 8:16 GMT)

The wickets are the reason sub continent batsmen have big averages. When its moving around a little they don't know what to do. A batsman like kallis amla de viliers have 50 plus averages in the place where batting is the most difficult. For smith to average close to 50 in SA as a opener is fantastic. He is a world class player.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (October 10, 2013, 20:22 GMT)

Hope it won't be a dreary draw on a road of a pitch like last time. Sadly, the warm up brought those memories back.

Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (October 10, 2013, 18:48 GMT)

All the guys know if they're ready, they have considerable experience. But we'll know for sure when the action starts next week.

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