Pakistan in SA

Newlands gears for Biff's 100

2013-02-11 12:01
Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Newlands is as fitting a location as any as Graeme Smith prepares to become the first man, from Thursday, to lead his country 100 times in Tests.

The Smith leadership celebrations have already started, of course, because the first-Test triumph over Pakistan at the Wanderers marked his 100th appearance more broadly as skipper at that level, although that included his once-off captaincy of a World XI against Australia in Sydney several years ago.

But the big left-handed batsman’s “homecoming”, to the city of his Sunfoil Series-winning franchise the Cape Cobras and place of long-time personal residence, ought to be no less poignant an occasion for the second Test against the Pakistanis.

Smith had already comfortably beaten Allan Border’s landmark of 93 Tests as captain of Australia, and when he tosses the coin for a 100th time as Proteas leader, it will also only emphasise the gap between himself and the next best-placed South African - Hansie Cronje, who led the country into Test battle 53 times and lies ninth on the world ladder for Test appearances in charge.

Beyond just its geographical relevance for Smith, though, Newlands staging the milestone match is appropriate because “Biff” has traditionally played particularly wholehearted roles, both as a captain and batsman, in Tests at the popular ground.

It is also where he started out his illustrious, currently 108-cap Test career, batting at No 3 (behind current national coach Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs) against a formidable Australian side in March 2002.

The greenhorn Smith registered three and 68 in the four-wicket reverse for his side.

He played just one further Test not as captain at Newlands - on a prior visit by Pakistan in 2002/03, when South Africa won by an innings and he and Gibbs blasted a record 368-run opening partnership in the Proteas’ lone knock (Smith notched 151).

Since that match, he has recorded 13 further appearances in Cape Town, and all as skipper, with eight wins and four draws to boast.

The only blemish on his captaincy record came as far back as March 2006, 10 Newlands games ago, when a still-imperious Aussie side under Ricky Ponting won the first Test there and went on to earn a 3-0 sweep over South Africa.

When Smith, just turned 32, leads the troops into their attempt to secure an early series win from Thursday (with a third Test still to play at Centurion), he will also be bidding for a fourth successive Proteas victory under his tenure at the ground, following wins - in receding order - against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia.

His batting statistics at Newlands also glow very agreeably: whilst his overall career tally of Test runs stands at exactly 8 700, at 49.15, he comfortably cranks that average above the 50-mark (to 54.45) in the shadow of Table Mountain.

Four of his 26 centuries thus far have come at the venue.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

HAVE YOUR SAY: Is Graeme Smith SA's greatest ever Test captain? Can you see any way the Proteas will possibly lose to Pakistan at Newlands? Send your thoughts to Sport24.

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