CAPE TOWN: South Africa captain Graeme Smith expects an even contest between bat and ball to set up a thrilling finale in the series-deciding third Test against Australia at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The wicket has been a key factor in the opening two Tests, a lively pitch helping Mitchell Johnson bowl Australia to a 281-run win in the series opener in Pretoria and a slower and more abrasive surface in Port Elizabeth aiding South Africa to get prodigious reverse-swing and claim a 231-run win.
“It looks like a really good Test wicket and will have something for both bat and ball,” Smith told reporters on Friday.
“It can get a bit flat and slow towards the back end if it is hot, but it has also changed of late and there has been a bit more in it than in the past.”
The Proteas captain said he expected a different type of wicket to the one that saw Australia bowled out for 47 in their second innings in 2011.
“I think the wicket has settled down quite a bit since then. That Test was also played in November just after winter.”
Smith denied that the South African team had asked Newlands curator Evan Flint for any specific type of wicket or that they had done so ahead of the second Test.
“Port Elizabeth has been exactly the same for the last 40 years, I’m amazed that so much was made of the wicket after the Test. We knew exactly what to expect down there and we were the team that adapted best to the conditions.”
Smith has scored 37 runs in four innings in the series, but felt in good form and was looking forward to playing on a ground where he averages 52 over his career.
“I feel like I have been batting well the whole season, it is just these last two games. In Pretoria I felt I was unlucky there and I let myself down in Port Elizabeth.
“My training has gone well, mentally I feel in a good space. I have ticked all the boxes, it’s now about going out there tomorrow and getting in.”
Having former coach and fellow left-handed opener Gary Kirsten back with the squad this week in a consultancy role has been a boost, Smith said.
“It’s always nice to have Gary back, he always adds value with his calmness, experience and work rate. He is a great asset to us.”
Proteas coach Russell Domingo said that Australia opener David Warner’s suggestion that AB de Villiers had been tampering with the ball in the second Test would add extra-motivation to the side. Smith himself was clearly seething.
“He is becoming a little bit of a rent-a-quote. My thoughts are strong and I will probably say something towards the end of the Test match. It’s sad that it took the gloss off a greatest win and a great performance.”