Critical Test duel for Biff and Mitch

2011-11-09 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A new chapter in the epic war novel featuring South Africa and Australia will be scripted at the first Test starting at Newlands today.

The Proteas’ fortunes against Australia in recent years have been mixed. They tasted success during the historic series victory in Australia in 2008/2009, but they have not been able to achieve that feat at home.

“I think there is a fresh determination in the squad,” said captain Graeme Smith.

“I think that the key factors we can take out of that series win in 2008/2009 is that mentally we know we can beat Australia in Test cricket, and we know how to beat them. I think that is in itself confidence that I think a lot of players in this team at the moment have, and we know that if we can get ourselves to the levels we can perform really well.”

One of the enthralling features of the rivalry has been the intense on-field battles between individual players.

It was prevalent during the Daryll Cullinan and Shane Warne era and more recently one that has lit up the battlefield has been the sometimes brutal affair between Smith and Mitchell Johnson.

Smith said, “Myself and Mitch had some good battles; he’s a world-class bowler.

“He seems to really thrive in these conditions. I think he gets a certain new dimension to his bowling with the new ball here; he gets a little more shape than … he’s had over the last period, so that is a whole new aspect to facing him in South Africa.

“I’ve also had my opportunities where I have got the better of him, I’ll need to find away to hit the ball back at him to get fully back at him, but that’s the nature of the game and the nature of opening the batting: you take your blows then you move on. Come tomorrow both of us will be fronting up again and that is exciting about sport.”

Smith will lead South Africa for a record 83rd time, and he has the opportunity of enforcing a maiden series victory over Australia at home since 1992. It is only a two-match series and without first-class preparations the Proteas know that they have to be quick off the starting blocks.

Smith said, “It’s a little disappointing it is only a two-Test match series. Obviously we would have loved to take on Australia in a longer series, but I think the first Test becomes crucial and, starting well in that first Test.

“For us to have the opportunity to play against Australia at home and to beat them is an opportunity we are really up for. We are excited about it and I think we have covered as much of our bases as we can.

“I know tonight guys will go to bed believing they are ready and believing that we can come out and match up in the next five days.”

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