Backed South Africa to chase 300 at Newlands - Gibbs
Herschelle Gibbs, the former South Africa opening batsmen, has said Graeme Smith's team could have chased down an even bigger target against Australia in Cape Town. After that win, he said, the home side will look to finish off a wounded Australia in the second Test in Johannesburg, which begins on Thursday.
South Africa chased down 236 to win at Newlands and did so comfortably, a sign of their maturity as a team. Far from the skittish men who Gibbs described in his autobiography, To the Point, as being paralysed by "fear of failure", the squad seems to have settled as an established group of players who have what it takes to win in crunch situations. "South Africa have had the same Test squad for some time and they have built up a good record," Gibbs told ESPNcricinfo. "Even if Australia had got 300, I would have backed South Africa to chase it because days three and four are the best for batting at Newlands.
"Australia are not as mentally tough as they used to be, to play anywhere in the world," Gibbs told ESPNCricinfo in Cape Town. "They are not going to be as strong as they were under Steve Waugh and any team that plays better than them on any given day can now beat them. They are not as intimidating as they used to be."
Meeting a mortal Australian side is not something South Africans, especially of Gibbs' era, are used to. Gibbs played 15 of his 90 Tests against Australia and was on the losing side 13 times. South Africa only managed to beat Australia once in that time, in Durban in March 2002. Gibbs' century was the highest score of the match and helped South Africa chase 335 in a dead rubber.
Times have changed and South Africa have now recorded two consecutive wins over Australia in their own backyard. But, their victory on Friday gave them only their fifth win over Australia at home since readmission, an indicator of how dominant the visitors have been.
In the bizarre match at Newlands, all four innings took place on the second day, resulting in some of the lowest innings-scores in recent history. South Africa were skittled for 96 in their first innings before Australia were ousted for just 47 in their second.
The result would have given South Africa additional satisfaction because of criticism they copped beforehand about being underprepared for an important series. None of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher and Dale Steyn had played a SuperSport Series match before the Test, leading to speculation that South Africa would be undercooked. "Given that they went into the Tests with no first-class match-time, it makes the win even more special" Gibbs said. "They will want to rub it into the Aussie noses now."
More important than making a point, will be the chance to win a series against Australia. "They have got the Aussies in sixes and sevens and Australia will probably be making changes to their side," Gibbs said. "I think South Africa have enough experience to put the final nail in the coffin."
Gibbs also believes the right leadership is in place to ensure South Africa do not get carried away with their Newlands win and look to close out the series. "Gary Kirsten will demand the highest level of consistency, just like in his playing days," Gibbs, who knows Kirsten well from opening the batting with him, said. "They know that true professionals are not happy with one win."
A different contest is expected at the Wanderers, with Johannesburg notably warmer than Cape Town has been. "The first few days of this match, the air stayed cool here in Cape Town, and there is always something for the bowlers," Gibbs said. "But Jo'burg will have a different wicket. The ball comes on to the bat quicker and better [there]."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent