Oz ready for under-cooked SA
Cape Town - South African captain Graeme Smith admitted on Tuesday that Australia will go into the first Test at Newlands on Wednesday better prepared than the home side.
With seven of the South African squad of 14 not having played any first-class cricket since a Test against India in January, Smith said his side would be at a disadvantage against the tourists who are coming off a Test series in Sri Lanka in September and a first-class match against South Africa A last week.
"That's great to hear," said Australian skipper Michael Clarke when told of Smith's comment.
"If that's the case it's a real tick in that first box for us knowing we're 100 percent ready to play."
Clarke exuded confidence as he prepared to lead his team into his second Test series in charge following victory in Sri Lanka.
"Mentally and physically we're in a really good position," said Clarke.
"We take a lot of confidence out of our last tour to Sri Lanka, winning the one-day series (against South Africa) then playing in a pretty competitive practice match the other day."
Clarke added that the fact that some of South Africa's leading players were short of match practice would not necessarily give Australia a major advantage.
"Their only concern might be that they haven't played much Test cricket lately but they've got plenty of experience and they know their conditions very well.
"Our edge is more from the confidence we can take from having played good cricket of late. With good players it doesn't take long to get back in the groove."
Rain further hampered South Africa's preparation on Tuesday, turning a scheduled final practice into an optional indoor limb loosener.
"It is less than ideal," said Smith.
"The reality is that going into a series against Australia we would love to have had as much first-class cricket as possible. As a group we were honest about that a few days ago.
"Australia are better prepared than us, and there's no point hiding away from that. We've got to find a way to make sure we're ready to compete come day one."
Smith said he was disappointed that it is only a two-match series but said that made starting well in the first Test even more important than usual.
The South Africans are yet to defeat Australia in a home series since returning to international cricket in 1991 but Smith said the fact that the Proteas had beaten their opponents away in 2008/09 was a confidence booster.
"Mentally we know we can beat Australia and we know how to beat them," he said.
"We've covered as many bases as we can and I know our guys will go to bed tonight believing they are ready."
The Newlands pitch was under cover on Monday as intermittent rain fell over the ground.
"Newlands at this time of the year is a little bit of an unknown," said Smith.
"It will probably be a bit different to what we are used to. The wickets this season haven't been the easiest to bat on and I expect it to be pretty similar this season.
"Who can get stuck in and (put together) one big partnership might be the difference in the game."
Smith did not say whether Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir would make his debut on Wednesday but Clarke said he expected Tahir to play.
"He's a very good bowler and a wicket taker. Me as a captain, I'd pick Tahir."
Clarke said that although his players had not come up against Tahir often, several of the Australians had seen or played against him in English county cricket or in a World Cup warm-up match in India earlier this year.
"We've looked at a lot of footage. We've prepared as well as we can without actually facing him. We're looking forward to the challenge if he does play."