South Africa tap into local cricketing expertise
Australia have shipped in Shane Warne to mentor (not coach) their spinners ahead of the Twenty20 series and share his cricket knowledge with the rest. South Africa have called on some of the finest heads in the cricketing fraternity to do the same. The biggest Test of the summer awaits both teams and they're doing all they can to make sure they're not found wanting.
Gary Kirsten, who signed on for 50 days as a batting consultant with the South African side, has spent a few of those alongside the squad this week. Mark Boucher was at the nets on the eve of the Test match, Jacques Kallis' advice will be sought from whichever golf course he is on and when he arrives to be felicitated during the game, and even the non-playing members of the squad will be called on to add their bit.
Robin Peterson, who did not play at St George's Park but was born and has lived in Port Elizabeth, contributed to the knowledge bank in a big way for that Test, according to Dale Steyn. In Cape Town South Africa have a wealth of players who are familiar with the ground and the conditions to call on. Six members of the squad play for the franchise based in the city and one of them, Rory Kleinveldt, is being tipped to make a return partly because of the success he has enjoyed at this ground.
Of the former players, Kirsten, Boucher and Kallis all spent large parts of their careers playing domestic cricket in Cape Town. All of them know the ground and the game almost as well as they know themselves and add a different dimension to the think-tank. Kirsten's specialties are player management and technique. "It's always nice to have Gary back," Smith said. "He always adds value with his calmness, experience and work rate. He is a great asset to us."
Boucher and Kallis' areas are mindset. Although Boucher was spotted doing throw-downs at a nets session, there's little doubt he will also be doing some teaching in throwing down verbals at the Australians and beating them at their own mind game. Boucher has a reputation for being a fighter and a scrapper and during his playing days, South Africa thrived on that.
He'll remind them of their standards, as he did on Twitter after the second Test win: "We are the No1. team in the world... we showed why. Other teams would have crashed in after the humiliating defeat in 1st Test. Not us!"
Kallis is not as loud a cheerleader but an astute observer of the game. He has already weighed in on the reverse swing debacle, explaining that when David Warner hit JP Duminy for six and the ball landed on concrete, the roughing up started. "It was perfect start to preparing the ball for reverse swing," Kallis said in a column.
It's observations like that Graeme Smith will welcome. "I always like to get as much information as possible," Graeme Smith said, when asked about whether he knew what he'd do at the toss. Smith has lived in Cape Town for 15 years and considers himself a local, so he knows the weather can change in an instant and that can influence a decision at the toss.
Clouds are forecast for the first morning and when they sit on Table Mountain, that usually means conditions are good for bowling. But, they are also expected to clear fairly quickly and blue skies and a warm day will open up, making the afternoon good for batting. If the captain who calls the coin correctly decides to put the opposition in, he will want quick wickets as a reward for that decision.
Whatever happens, neither captain expects the surface to be as a lively as it was when they last met in Cape Town in November 2011. Then, South Africa were bowled out for 96 and Australia for 47 on a mad day in which 23 wickets tumbled at Newlands. "I think the wicket has settled down quite a bit since then," Smith said, with Michael Clarke also noting the strip seemed "quite different" to what it was three years ago.
Then, the water table was high because of the time of year and the freshly laid clay. Now, the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and there's a Test series on the line. There's no better reason to expect eye-catching cricket.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent