Like all all South Africans of the post-isolation era, this current crop of Proteas cricketers under the captaincy of Graeme Smith love playing at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
They’ve all grown up reading about the place, the history, the daft jackets and ties in the Pavilion, the museum and Old Father Time, and it will spur them on when they take to the venerable old venue for the deciding Test of the series with England from Thursday.
It’s the first time since 1994 that Lord’s will host a series “decider”.
On the four previous occasions, the Lord’s Test has been the opening Test of the series, and in three of those matches, South Africa won – convincingly.
Not that any of the current players will be looking back. They have created history and played some exceptional cricket in this series and they wouldn’t want to toss away that hard work by erring at a ground which has meant so much to South African cricket in the past 18 years.
Attaining a series win there and elevating themselves to the No 1 spot would further serve to etch the venue in the players’ consciousness.
Though many of them have played there before, they’ll still want to soak it up properly when they visit tomorrow – “the Lord’s effect” can be an overwhelming one as many of the bowlers found out in 2008.
Graeme Smith loves it there. The history of the place appeals to his sense of tradition, and he has made his mark in the most impressive fashion on his last two visits.
As good as the ground has been to him, Smith will be aware that he can’t harp too much on the centuries made in 2003 and 2008, not when there is such a large prize in front him and his team.
England are dealing with all manner of distractions since the last Test at Headingley, chief among those being Kevin “it’s hard being me” Pietersen. Some of the Pietersen controversy has made its way into the South African dressing room with reports about text messages being swopped between him and some of the touring players.
That won’t matter to Smith, whose singular focus – not to mention at times tetchy relationship with Pietersen – will be on recording a second consecutive series win in England. Far from being conservative, Smith expects his team to step up their intensity from Thursday.
“We showed with our declaration (at Headingley) what our mindset is and what we are here to do, and I don’t see it changing, in fact, I see us taking a step forward at Lord’s,” said the South African captain.
South Africa will pick the same team – barring any further injuries – for the third successive match, happy in the knowledge that they can deal with whatever pitch is served up at Lord’s.
Talk about the surface has been wide-ranging with some saying England need a surface full of life to assist their quick bowlers. Others say make it a raging turner, pick both Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar and spin South Africa to pieces. Lord’s – and the MCC who run the place – won’t bow to any requests from the England team, no matter that they desperately need to win.
For South Africa, the Lord’s match is another big game in which their mental wherewithal will be scrutinised.
They have a terrible reputation on such occasions, but they’re slowly building a new dynamic, which will make them look forward to this encounter.
History beckons for them.
l Lonwabo Tsotsobe made sure the rest of the South African attack won’t rest on their laurels as he produced a fiery display picking up 4-45 in the tour match against Derby at the County Ground.
Barring an injury to one of the starting XI, Tsotsobe is unlikely to play in the Lord’s Test, but the rest of the attack, who all got a reasonable workout, will know they can’t take it easy in the build-up.
The South African players emerged unscathed, except for Vernon Philander, who copped a nasty blow in the groin on his way to making a half-century yesterday afternoon.
The team head up to London tomorrow.