Sri Lanka in South Africa 2011-12 December 23, 2011

Smith determined to end Kingsmead jinx


If the most dangerous animal is one that has been wounded, then the most determined cricketer is one whose ego has been punctured. Of all the sportsmen to suffer ignominy in the last 12 months, few have been more humbled than South Africa's cricket team. Although they did not play cricket for seven months of the year, the break gave them ample time to think about the disappointment which preceded it.

Without mentioning what that was just yet, remember that South Africa ended their winter break with a cracker-jack series against Australia. Now, they are in the process of sinking their teeth into a tender Sri Lankan side, whose inability to perform away from home and without their stalwart spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, has never been more glaring. For Graeme Smith, it is an opportunity to make amends, even though the wrong has long been forgotten.

"After a very disappointing time at the World Cup, a lot of criticism around and the lack of confidence, just to be able to build and strengthen up the squad is crucial," Smith said. "There's stability around the team. You could feel a much more settled nature in the squad in the first Test against Sri Lanka and some confidence shown in players. It's good to see the players have taken that and performed."

March 25, Allan Donald in the black and white of New Zealand and Kyle Mills shoulder-charging Faf du Plessis seem like years ago. To the average South African cricket fan, that quarter-final loss probably doesn't matter that much anymore and definitely has no place in the current summer of cricket. But, Smith is still a little haunted by the memory of that day and, according to him, some of the other players also are. "A lot of the players have been hurt over the last period of time and are really motivated to put things right," he said.

Redemption is too strong a word to use for what South Africa hope to do - if they were looking for that, they achieved it when they bowled Australia out for 47 in Cape Town last month - it's far less complicated than that. Consistency is perhaps closer to the truth or just simply the ability to win a home series for the first time in three seasons. Whatever it is, Durban would be a fitting venue to do it.

The last time South Africa won a Test at Kingsmead was in 2008, against West Indies. Since then, it's been as much of a nemesis to them as left-armers are to Smith and they have lost to Australia, England and India. "It's been extremely disappointing the way we have played at Kingsmead," Smith said. "I want to turn that around. I want to perform well here and I think everybody in the team feels the same way."

Usually, the Kingsmead Test is the Boxing Day one and Smith was candid in saying at this festive time of year, the squad has to be careful not to let their guard down. "At Christmas time, you have to keep your focus up," he said. "The margins have been small here in the Test matches we've played. We've being as clinical as we could have been. Mentally, we need to be strong."

The reality is that few expect South Africa will need a Herculean effort to overcome this Sri Lankan side, that the inspiration the squad will draw from their World Cup exit and their poor record in Durban might be better directed to a different, more competitive opposition. Since, it can't, this will have to do. Smith and Co. can only fight the opponent put in front of them and they are determined to leave nothing to chance. "It's our goal to keep them [Sri Lanka] on the back foot as long as possible and not allow them to find that rhythm and freedom with which they like to play," Smith said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ronald on December 25, 2011, 15:18 GMT

    @hashabjp ya i remember how SA THRASHED SL last time when they visit sl. the best partnership in test cricket happens in that time. if you say that is a flat track & why they lost by an innings ? chillax.

  • Parthiban on December 25, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    SA can gain all the confidence they need from this tour. It's so funny reading all the various excuses the SL players and the fans trot out.

  • Evan on December 25, 2011, 5:43 GMT

    Funny to read all the comments from our sub-continental friends who complain that these pitches are unfair, and that they should prepare rank turners when SA visits in retaliation. Erm, you do prepare rank turners when SA visits, usually when you're behind in the series, as India did the last time we toured there. And SA doesn't cry about them being unfair, they just talk about the need to adjust and get on with it. Really, just play the game and quit whinging - you really are not the victims you constantly make out you are.

  • Hulk on December 25, 2011, 4:20 GMT

    I see some SL fans pleading to bring back Malinga. I wonder how Malinga can turn their fortunes in Test Cricket. His bowling is ideal for limited overs cricket like ODI & T20. But test cricket bowling requires special qualities & you cannot get batsman out by bowling yorkers all the time. Wasim & Waqar had plenty of wickets with yorkers in Test matches but those wickets came off a surprise fast-paced yorker. Also the duo had many variations to keep batsmen on their toes all the time. Malinga Magic does not work for Test Cricket as he is not versatile for this format of the game. Let him win matches for SL in limited overs cricket, he is the best in the business there.

  • ras on December 25, 2011, 1:55 GMT

    @josh2david..... bouchers average is thirty because most of his runs have come against minnow like bangladesh and zimbabwe... Never seen him score a hundred in ages ....The catched he took came to him, he didnt have to run for them and were fairly easy. I think Vilas will do justice. Sangakara and jayawardene have score most of their runs in Sri Lanka and their average is minimal in South Africa. South Africa has won a series in India and Drawn there too. I say go Sri Lanka prepare your best turner and South Africa will still thrash you at home.

  • josh on December 24, 2011, 20:14 GMT

    @hashabjp Boucher is a good No7 batsman I don't see any problem him behind the stump, his average of 30 in test match is pretty good in more than 100 test matches, he took 5 catches in last test. Also we are in early stage of this series; you can just write off Mahela and Sanga. Sanga always takes time to adjust the condition, he always perform well as series goes. I don't understand people accuse batsman 'flat tract bullies' SA batsmen struggle perform in slow pitches in subcontinent, would you then say "slow pitch sluggers'"?

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2011, 17:55 GMT

    i would bet any amount that sri lanka would lose the test series .

  • V.L on December 24, 2011, 16:04 GMT

    It seems a lot of SLankans are showing a lot of hate towards other countries SA, IND you name it. Now lets analyze this logically. SL does not have any proper batsman other than Sanga and Mahela. You cannot expect them to score a double hundred every innings to keep SL in the hunt. Also they do not have a single bowler who can bowl a potentially match-winning spell. Unless Sri Lanka can produce a Malinga like bowler for test cricket, I do not see them winning any games in the near future. This will be their 4th consecutive series defeat this year!

  • PADDY on December 24, 2011, 14:25 GMT

    India is going to be thrashed by Aus in the boxing day test and SA would win against SL. SA will win the series 2-0 after a draw in one of the 3 tests, but India gonna be thrashed 4-0 by Aus this time.

  • Amila on December 24, 2011, 13:59 GMT

    @Chris_P i saw your comment in other thread related to AUS and IND series ,so that's confirm ur an Indian if SL bowlers are not up to the level how do u rate the Indian bowling attack? a Joke?

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