Australian skipper Steven Smith is looking forward to fiery challenge for batsmen in the upcoming South Africa series. Meanwhile, Australia reached South Africa on Saturday (February 17) to start their preparation for the Test series. Also, Australia will play four Test matches in the Rainbow Nation.
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With South Africa suffering a humiliating loss in the ODI series against India and the T20Is to follow, the focus hasn’t shifted yet to the iconic Test series. However, the contest should not take long to draw attention once it begins in Durban on March 1, given the two impressive pace attacks that will be on display.
South Africa’s pace battery recently demolished the star-studded Indian batting line-up. The like of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, and Morne Morkel bagged 43 wickets in the series. Furthermore, the young and energetic Lungi Ngidi impressed everybody with his line and length. Eventually, South Africa won the series 2-1.
Meanwhile, Australia’s pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Pat Cummins claimed 66 wickets to secure a 4-0 thrashing of England.
It will be an intriguing battle between two world-class seam bowling attacks.
Smith feels that the two pace attacks should capture the headlines but also get the batsmen excited.
“You love going up against the best bowlers in the world and South Africa have, in particular, two guys with pace – Rabada and Morkel. They’re quality bowlers, along with Philander who challenges your defense consistently. The batters should be looking forward to this series – you love going up against those sort of challenges. I think it’s going to be a fantastic series for the viewers to watch,” Smith said in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s poor records at home:
The Proteas are yet to beat Australia at home after the post-apartheid period. However, Australia will have an opportunity to settle the equation of last time’s loss at their own den.
“We got beat by SA at home a year ago. That was a bit of a low point for Australian cricket, so it will be great if we can turn the tide in SA,” Smith stated.
Improved as a team:
Since then, Smith feels Australia has grown as a team. Be it the India series, Smith admitted they had opportunities where they could have sealed the series. Further, Australia had a thumping win over England in the Ashes by 4-0.
“I think we’ve made some really good strides in the last year,” said Smith. “I thought we played some pretty good cricket in India without winning that series. We had moments where we could have won the series. Obviously, the summer back home was fantastic to win 4-0 (against England). This series is going to be another good challenge for us. Both fast bowling lineups are really good so it’s going to be a nice fiery series for the batters and it might be tough work as well. So I think we’ve come a long way,” Smith added.
The toughest challenge for both sides:
However, the main challenge could be retaining energy levels after some intense cricket leading to the series. Both the team have played a significant amount of cricket in the summers. Although the postponement of the Twenty20 Global League provided some respite in November for the Proteas.
Naturally, both nations have picked very different squads for the formats in order to provide their Test players with the rest that Smith admitted he desperately needed.
“I was (feeling weary) until two weeks ago when I got a bit of a break,” he said. “I actually feel really good now – I feel refreshed. For a bit of that time (off) I actually didn’t feel like picking up my cricket bat, but then five or six days ago I wanted to do it again, which probably means I’m ready to go. We’ve obviously had a pretty big summer, so the chance to have a rest and get ourselves up for this series has been important. All the guys are champing at the bit to get started now,” Smith concluded.
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