Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – There is “no hiding” from the
fact that Australia will enter the first Test against South Africa in a better
state of preparedness on Wednesday, says Proteas captain Graeme Smith.
It has been reasonably fashionable for
people in the South African camp to describe the lead-up to the important
encounter in a controversially short series as “less than ideal”.
Sport24 put it to Smith at his captain’s
press conference at Newlands on Tuesday that the situation was arguably a bit
worse than that, given that several batsmen and the main Proteas pace bowlers
have not had so much as a solitary first-class outing since the Test at the
same ground against India last summer.
“Can I use the phrase ‘less than ideal?’”
Smith quipped. “The reality is that it’s not ... for us going into a series
against Australia we’d have loved to play as much cricket as possible. Time in our
legs; as much first-class cricket as possible, really.
“But that’s not the situation and the group
were honest about it in chatting a few days ago. Australia are better prepared
than us -- there’s no hiding away from it, that’s the reality.
“We’ve got to find a way, we said two or
three days ago, to make sure we’re ready to compete come day one. There’s no
point sitting here saying this and that ... we’ve just got to come out and play
good cricket for five days.
“We’ve done as much as possible to make
sure we’re ready. That’s all we can control. We’ve just got to front up from Wednesday.”
Smith said that starting well in the first
Test of only two, especially as initial conditions at the ground look like
being overcast and damp and challenging for batting, would be crucial.
“It’s an opportunity we’re up to. One big
partnership could make a big difference in the game, and I expect day one
conditions to be fairly similar to the first day against India here last season.
“I don’t think we’ll have to play from
memory as such (as suggested by one inquirer – Sport24). We’ve covered our
bases in training. The last two ODIs, for myself, I felt my game was coming
back together and I got a lot of confidence out of those games.
“Perhaps in the last year or so I’ve fallen
away a bit from my known strengths (as a batsman) and want to get back there
and do them well.”
I asked Smith whether the four-day Potchefstroom
game the Aussies had had against SA ‘A’ might have bolstered the enemy cause
more than he would have liked it to.
“Look, that’s the nature of touring. If we were
on tour we’d have got that game also. They’ve had the benefit of having played
in Sri Lanka before coming here and then the advantage of that four-day game,
so I’m not trying to hide away from the fact that they’re better prepared.
“But our coaching staff have been great and
I can’t fault the hard work that’s gone on to make us (ready). I know the guys
will be mentally good to go against Australia.
“The fact that it wasn’t an easy game for
them was probably to their benefit, but it was exciting to see some young fast
bowlers do well also (for SA ‘A’).
“To be honest I didn’t take too much notice
of that game; we’ve been really focused on ourselves and making sure we’re
ready. We had enough things to tick off.
“I guess it’s nice that they never got to
make 400 for three and bat for three days!”
Asked if there was any significance to the
supposedly fit-again AB de Villiers not batting at weather-enforced indoor nets
on Tuesday, Smith said: “Not necessarily, maybe it’s just an indication he’s
feeling quite confident!
“With the weather around it’s been optional
today, indoors. Fitness-wise, he’s come through fine. He’s experienced enough
to know what he’s got to do to be ready to play on Wednesday.”