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Firdose Moonda at Centurion Park
February 15, 2014
South Africa have never wanted to get out of Centurion faster. The venue that remains their most successful - this is the only the second Test they have lost on the ground, and there first in an authentic contest - is now the scene of one of their biggest humiliations. They are bracing themselves for a backlash as fierce as the Port Elizabeth wind, even as they make their way to the place nicknamed the "Friendly city."
"There's going to be a lot of criticism and fan emotion. We didn't live up to expectations," a despondent Graeme Smith said. "And we deserve every bit that comes out way."
"It's about not getting caught up in the emotions. It's important for us to be smart. We need to train well in the next few days and we also need to make smart decisions," Smith said.
It was too early in the aftermath for Smith to confirm whether those decisions would include changes in selection. "I don't know how to answer that question," he said. Instead the choices may revolve around things like the toss, which Smith admitted he should have handled differently. "I was very undecided on day one. In hindsight I would definitely have made a different decision."
Smith put Australia in because of the tinge of green on the surface, but it turned out the pitch was better for batting on the first day and became riddled with variable bounce later on. Despite that, Smith insisted there was more the defeat than one decision.
"We just didn't hit our straps in any department throughout the four days," he said. "We had little mishaps through illness, injury, niggles and we allowed Australia to play on the front foot. We know when they do that, they are a very dominant team. At 100 for 4 we had a real opportunity and we weren't able to take that. From there we under pressure."
Australia exerted pressure most effectively through Mitchell Johnson and he will be South Africa's biggest concern. "There's no doubt he was the difference. He is in form and he is hot at the moment We need to find a way to curb that and put him under pressure," Smith said. "He was able to extract every bit of life and uncertainty out of this wicket."
Despite that, Smith brushed off suggestion Johnson had planted a seed of doubt in the South Africans minds. "I doubt there is much mental scarring. We've lost a game of cricket and we've been beaten comprehensively. It's important that we move away now."
He said they would remind themselves of the times they have been able to bounce back from heavy defeats and continue climbing. "This side has a lot of confidence. Again, we've started a series very slowly but I think this game will benefit us going into the next game. Hopefully we will be at higher intensity."
Perhaps it will help that the Port Elizabeth pitch will not have as much in it for the quicks - although even that notion shows the impact of this first Test - and the vibe at the coast will be less frenetic than it is up country. It will mean South Africa can relax ahead of a game they must win if they want to have a chance to become the first team since readmission to beat Australia at home.
"It's very disappointing at this stage but good reflection is always important," Smith said. "We are moving to a different part of the country with different conditions."
Sorry Centurion, the fortress has been breached.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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