Proteas role is to keep focused – Graeme Smith

2014-02-19 13:15

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Facing Mitchell Johnson was not too different from facing any other bowler, says Proteas test captain Graeme Smith.

Smith was referring to the fact that he had scored runs against the left-arm paceman in the past.

In the first test, Johnson harried and terrified the Proteas batsmen on his way to career-best figures of 12/127 as Australia won the match at SuperSport Park by a massive 281 runs.

Smith said: “There have been times when he has got the better of me and I’ve got the better of him, but SuperSport Park was a different ball game with the new ball and the pitch and how it behaved.

“The first 20-25 were crucial and he was able to strike. It is about walking the walk and putting up the good performances.”

Bouncing back from heavy defeats has been the Proteas’ modus operandi and Smith said he knew his team has what it takes to square the series.

“It is important to have the ability to respond and know how to respond – and experience plays a role. “Maybe we don’t like throwing the first punch. The guys have a lot of reference points in terms of performances to fall back on and I think it will be about not carrying too much baggage from Pretoria,” Smith said.

With Ryan McLaren unavailable for the second test, which starts tomorrow at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, the toss-up is between Dean Elgar and Wayne Parnell for the vacant number seven slot.

Smith was non-committal about McLaren’s replacement, but with the number of contracted players being reduced from 22 to 17 players, Smith said it was vital for him to help those who had lost contracts to keep the focus.

Squad members Thami Tsolekile and Dean Elgar are among those who have lost their contracts.

“We still have to finalise that later on Thursday and Andrew Hudson still has to finalise the team,” Smith said.

“My role is to keep them focused on what’s important – and that is to keep them focused on Thursday. Should any one of them play, it will provide the opportunity for them to show people that they are worthy. It is a curved ball that is tough to deal with but we have to find a way.”

The St George’s Park wicket, known to play low and slow, has been a high-scoring surface that has tended to favour the team that bats first. While there was a greenish tinge to it over the weekend, it looked brown with a fair smattering of grass.

However, Smith was quick to point out that when it came to pitch preparation, he deals with whatever cards he gets.

“One thing I have learnt is that when you ask for things, you generally do not get them, so that is something we tend to stay away from. We are just happy with a good test wicket. We would love a result wicket but in all honesty, a good test one will do,” said Smith.

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