South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 4th day February 15, 2014

We deserve everything we get - Smith


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."

A week ago, South Africa promised the country they would play in a manner that proved they were the No.1 ranked side in the world. They did not do that. The margin of defeat would suggest they played many notches below that but perhaps not much worse than when they lost the first Test to Pakistan in Abu Dhabi five months ago. Then too, they were bowled out cheaply, conceded heavily and looked off colour but they were able to come back and that is what Smith is going to tell his team to focus on.

"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 correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • pete on February 19, 2014, 20:58 GMT

    dont write sa off. We are on a roll no doubt but things can change quickly, in fact i predict that aust bats firsts, and we get a taste of the aggression that the sa quicks clearly possess. our openers get out quickly and the young doolan and marsh this time dont fire. clarke might make a few runs but runs out of partners once haddin fails again......about 250 for the first innings. Then sa gain confidence from our mediocre batting, score about 450, due to the blunting of MJ following a wicketless first 10 overs there again i could be wrong

  • cobus on February 17, 2014, 5:08 GMT

    What kind of "reporter" makes errors as basic as : .. and THERE first in an authentic contest..!? Not good enough..

  • Richard on February 17, 2014, 3:15 GMT

    Mr Smith looked like he had a plan A but not a plan B or C. In cricketing terms that relates to not having a decent spinner when your fast bowlers can't do the job on the day.

    I'm sure that there was also a lot of research, thought and execution that went into those catches by Doolan. That fielding position was masterful. SA might want to stop thinking that they are simply the best, and just start thinking.

  • Nirjhar on February 16, 2014, 17:32 GMT

    I think SA easily get mentally scarred against Australia, esp at home. The track record in past 20 years since SA rejoined cricket suggests this.

    This SA team is one of the world's best but gave up too soon. When I said that SA will lose to Aus badly at home, before India toured SA, all SA fans were very upset. India ran SA close but without the x-factor in bowling could not win at Jo'burg.

    Steyn and co are losing the edge. If Kohli had not got that rough decision on 1st ball of Day 5, maybe the Indian series would have been drawn (caught behind of the shoulder) 0-0.

    Aus will beat SA 2-0 and SA will lose any chance of being an all time great team. I liken SA playing Aus at home, similar to the choking in WC ODIs. What is wrong with SA mental make-up?

  • Android on February 16, 2014, 15:53 GMT

    my concern, sa go in with an almost unchanged team, thinking the guys just had a bad match, when actually rob p , alviro, jp all had. their standard game, with our big guns having a rough one. bringing Elgar and parnel in will not make a difference. vern with some work could take on an all rounder role, bat him at 7? De lock and hendricks / abbot and perhaps harmer at 8...

  • siddhartha on February 16, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    you can never write South Africa. There must me some reason that they are dominating ICC test rankings.Last year Pakistan beat them in the first test but they came back hard i the 2nd test.Aussie s should expect something similar

  • ESPN on February 16, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    One word: MOMENTUM. Both teams have skilled players in both batting and bowling, and world beaters in Johnson, Steyn, Clarke and ABDV. Every team sport in the world relies in some degree on momentum. The Aussies have it, can the Saffa's wrestle it back in time? My prediction, a high scoring draw in PE, Clarke and Smith to score centuries, Harris and Lyon best bowlers for Aussies. Steyn for SA. Thoughts?

  • Gerald on February 16, 2014, 12:05 GMT


    None of this means we are suddenly a bad team but does goes to show how SA always tries to play political games when the going is good. Same thing happens in our rugby. Nothing wrong with our bowling. Steyn, Philander are 1 & 2 for a reason. If you drop Peterson for a proper bowler we might be getting somewhere. The other option is that they should've begun to rely on Duminy as our primary spinner years ago because our specialist spinners are not much better than him and it is the only way they can justify keeping his brown face in the team.

    People have been saying this but then of course it was all "we are winning why are you picking on the non-white okes".

    Then of course, no matter what, eventually all teams lose a game. That is just sport.

  • Gerald on February 16, 2014, 12:04 GMT

    No there are no surprises. SA batting has been carrying Alviro and Duminy for years. Smith averages 50 over that same time period that they average <35. So stfu about Smith. For once the 4 main batsmen didn't score runs so now the passengers are in the spotlight. Also don't know why everyone is surprised by Robbie Peterson. He is not great, never was. Got lucky against India with those gift wickets. To be honest though there is not many options.

    Our selectors should've brought in more batsmen a year ago but sat Elgar on the bench not allowing him to play 4-days so that Alviro and Duminy can continue being mediocre. So for the first time in a long time we had to face good bowling and those bad selections came back to bite us.

  • Ettienne on February 16, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    Every team/person can have a off day or game. It can even happen to New Zealand in rugby. The question is if you as a team can put that behind you.

    I will not go to drastic measures if I was SA, but I think Arviro's time is running out. de Kock seems to be the best replacement in my opinion. I think AB is needed in the field to cut off crucial singles and put pressure on the Aussie batsmen.

    The 2 catches that Doolan took, was crazy good, but those will not always stick. Aus deserve the win, as they put pressure on SA from after lunch on day 1 and never let go. That's how champions play, and that is why they won.

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