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Cape Town – One of the keys to the Proteas' recent success is capitalising on big moments which can turn a game, South African skipper Graeme Smith said in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“The side has got really good at recognising big moments and big sessions which make a huge impact on the game,” Smith said on the eve of the second Test against Pakistan at Newlands.
While much of the team's success had been attributed to the consistent and relentless seam attack, Smith said the batsmen had also matured and played a major role in their results.
There was always pressure on the batsmen to lay the platform for bowlers, he said, and South Africa’s top-six were one of the best in the world.
“We’ve turned out performances all around the world, in many different conditions. Test matches are about patterns of play, and for the top three it’s about setting up the base and seeing off the new ball.
“It can be an extremely tough place to bat, especially in South African conditions, and you need be able to do the hard work up front to take the game away from the opposition.
“There's a lot of experience in our top four and an understanding of how to handle conditions – what is the right play at the right time – and the guys are prepared to do the hard work and not just play the flashy game.”
The Proteas thrashed Pakistan by 211 runs in the first Test, giving South Africa a 1-0 advantage in the three-Test series.
Another victory would see them winning five in a row, a feat never achieved under Smith before.
“We’ve proven that we’ve been solid for a length of time now, but the challenge is always to maintain that performance.
“We're playing against opposition with talented players and who can put in good performances, so we have to keep meeting those expectations in every Test match and keep playing well.”
Smith said they would not underestimate the Pakistan team, which had a history of starting off badly on tour and then turning things around.
“They’re in a pretty dangerous position after being beaten comprehensively at the Wanderers, but they’re also a team accustomed to putting in two vastly different performances.
“We can’t underestimate their talent and ability, especially with the ball, and we know, if there is one team that can bounce back from a performance like that, it's Pakistan.”
Despite the hype around Smith’s 100th Test as captain in Johannesburg, the statistics included a World XI match against Australia, so the skipper celebrates the milestone for a second time this week.
“Representing South Africa a hundred times as captain means the most to me, and wearing the Protea brand, and being part of this team, is very important to me.
“Being able to achieve a milestone in these colours is something I'll remember for a long time, and to achieve the milestone at Newlands, our marquee test ground in South Africa, is something I'm looking forward to celebrating, as the fans always make it special here.”
Smith said he was unsure of the wicket, but if the weather was hot over the weekend, it would get flatter and start to take some spin.
“Like all wickets in South Africa though, the new ball will have something in it.” – Sapa