South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town January 1, 2011

Team confidence runs deep - Smith


Graeme Smith has said South Africa are expecting a "tense Test" in the series decider against India that starts on Sunday. "When the series is on the line, the pressure is on both teams to perform," he said at the pre-match press conference in Cape Town.

India beat South Africa by 87 runs in Durban three days ago to level the three-Test series at 1-all after they were pummelled by an innings and 25 runs in Centurion. Despite a third, consecutive defeat at Kinsgmead, Smith said there is still great self-belief in the South African camp. "As a team the confidence runs deep, it's not just something that erodes after one game. We have played well over a long period of time. It's just about reassessing things, tweaking them and getting it right in this game."

Newlands is also one of South Africa's favourite venues to play at, which makes the adjustment process somewhat easier for them. "Playing here is one of the highlights of our year. The ground is looking magnificent, and the nets are the best I have seen in a very long time." The pitch is not expected to provide as much assistance for the bowlers as the previous two pitches, but Smith still expects it to do a little bit more than in previous years. "We know well it will have a bit more of bounce and carry than some of the other Newlands wickets we have played on."

While conditions have dominated talk ahead of the each of the three Tests in the series, there is an additional element adding to the hype of the third match: sledging. Sparks flew between Smith and Sreesanth during the second Test and Paul Harris claimed that the India bowler made vulgar, personal comments to members of the South African team.

Smith lost his wicket in the second innings shortly after an on-field altercation with Sreesanth that saw Smith wag his bat at the Indian bowler. Although it looked like a rush of blood to the head caused Smith to play a needless shot, he insisted that the he and the rest of the team are capable of dealing with sledging and that they regard it as part of the game. "You get used to it. In my 90 Tests, I don't think I have played many Tests where there hasn't been an aggressive vibe in the field." However, like Harris, he was quick to caution against getting personal. "I think you start bringing people's families into it, it gets a little bit like crossing over the line."

Despite that Smith believes the spirit is good between the two teams. "There is a lot of respect from both teams. It's one individual that has caused a few hassles and maybe crossed the line in certain ways."

MS Dhoni echoed Smith's sentiments about the incident, saying that certain guidelines needed to be followed on the field. "You have always to be on the right side of that line. Of course it's better if every individual is. It's quite difficult to control Sreesanth. Hopefully he will be on the right side this time, and if he's supposed to say something, say something that's not very personal and to the point."

Smith also unleashed one of his sternest critiques of his team's batting after the second test, blaming the team's loss on their first innings performance when they were bundled out for 131. "In Durban we lost our minds a little bit. Hopefully we can gather our strength, the top six especially, for this Test." South Africa do have JP Duminy waiting in the wings, but with Ashwell Prince being the highest run-scorer for South Africa in Durban, it's unlikely that he will be dropped.

It's difficult to see South Africa make any changes in the bowling department, where they have been relatively successful by their own admission. "We have kept India under 250-300 in the four innings," Smith said "and if we can maintain that, and maybe get even tighter, we can keep them under a bit of pressure." While Smith obviously forgot that India managed 459 in the second innings of the first Test, in three of the four innings they have been kept below 250.

With the confidence South Africa claim to have, it's likely they will field the same XI that did duty in the first two Tests. It's an ideal opportunity to assess them in a pressure situation, something South Africa have been accused of not knowing how to handle. Smith is convinced that they are capable of overcoming this time. "It's nothing we haven't seen before. We came here 1-0 down against England last year and played well."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    some of you guys talk like you have not played cricket at a proper level. You talk about every thing on the field expect family. one slap was not enough for Sreesanth if he carries on he will get a few more before he leaves SA. Even Dhoni said that Sreesanth was out of line. Waiting for Gary Kirsten contract to end and for India to play away from home.

  • Shruti on January 2, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    @Aadil-Shamim -You bet India will fail drastically. I bet,it would still do better than what Pakistan has been doing in New Zealand.Take your frustration out through some other way mate.

  • Des on January 2, 2011, 6:13 GMT

    India have the upper hand here by some distance...if they can play sensibly against the new ball as they did in the second innings in Centurion. After Steyn and Morkel, SA have little in the bowling department and even both of those can have temprament problems if things go against them. Harris and Tsotsobe would struggle in a pub side and Kallis isn't the threat he once was so a little discipline up top and India should make hay. See off the new ball, frustrate the quicks and theres runs aplenty to be had for India. As for the toss, we I think MS Dhoni must bat first should he win because Newlands is one of the few turning wickets in SA and I could see Harbajhan wreaking havoc fourth innings especially with the dry and sunny forecast.

  • rahul on January 2, 2011, 6:09 GMT

    During the first test, Harris was giving mouth full to all the Indian batsmen, who are in the crease. That time, India didnt even utter a single word called sledging. But when south african's lose a test, they say sledging, crossing line and personal etc. Its better to clean their dirt before they speak about others. I agree Sreesanth is overacting most of times, which has to be controlled. Let south africans control their tongue before looking at others.

  • Rajat on January 2, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    If sledging is justified to gain an advantage over the opponents, then Sreesanth's action was probably a masterstroke. The end justified the means. The whole sledging agenda and vocabulary has been set by the Aussies and accepted without resistance by the rest. So they have decreed that Monkey is unacceptable but Motherfu... is perfectly acceptable. That was Harbhajan's defence! Abuses are a cultural thing. Yet, Asian countries routinely bear the brunt in the name of being good sports. Can't there be instructions to captains before each series to ensure that opponents' cultures are respected and sledging does not use cultures specific abuse. Smith was devastated by the sledging in his first couple of series against Australia. And yet today his team sledges as well as the Aussies did.

  • sam on January 2, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    here everybody says steyn take 7 wkts at nakpur but look at steyns comment after the days play . he is actualy says the ball changes the nature, they never inform to the umpire and take wkts then ball change blabla.... so the point is he is also need the support from few things otherwise he cant do anything like zak.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    MSD, it would be better if you keep discussions about the team members inside the dressing room and team management circle. if it is that difficult to control Sree, then dont select him. Remember he got u smith's wicket too. I dont understand ur need to discuss Sree's attitude issues with media......

  • Sree on January 2, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    Australia had shown the power of sledging when they were #1. Sreeshanth is doing nothing less or more than what the majority of Aussies do (as well as many others). Whatever you say, cricketers are human too, and sledging will always have an impact. At the end of it all, the statistics will just say India won against SA by 87 runs, nothing about the sledging. Go Sreeshanth go! Being mild-mannered Indians does not pay, unless you happen to be Clark Kent.

  • raj on January 2, 2011, 4:54 GMT

    SA should win this at home...but WILL SA CHOKE LIKE ALWAYS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Ishant sharma should be replaced by Umesh Yadav

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