South Africa out to defend No. 1 spot against Australia

November 09, 2012 - 12:50:24 pm

BRISBANE, Australia: South Africa captain Graeme Smith wants to keep the anniversary of Australia’s humiliating capitulation for 47 fresh in the minds of the home side at the opening Brisbane Test today.

It will be almost 12 months to the day when the Proteas skittled the Australians for their lowest total against South Africa at Newlands on the way to a crushing eight-wicket win.

Smith didn’t miss the opportunity of reminding Michael Clarke’s Australians of their day of ignominy on the eve of the first of three Tests between the top-ranked South Africa and the number three Aussies.

Pace duo Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander rocked the Australians in Cape Town and are threatening to wreak similar havoc on a greenish Gabba pitch, where South Africa last played in 1963.

“(Coach Kirsten) Gary’s daughter is turning one tomorrow and she was born on that day. It’s quite easy to remember,” Smith said yesterday.

“To have Australia 21 for 9 is something that’s quite hard to fathom today.

“Our goal is to get into the (Australian) batting order and create a lot of pressure. If we can do that first up, hopefully we can create a bit of doubt.”

Steyn and Philander, the top two bowlers in Test cricket, are key to South Africa’s hopes of repeating their first-ever series win in Australia in 2009 and remaining the top Test nation.

“The thing is, you can bowl the speed of light, but how effective can you be. That’s the key,” Smith said of Steyn.

“Dale has proven that he can be both. Hopefully he’ll show that in this Test match.

“Our goal is to have our fast bowlers to expose their top order quickly. That inexperience is hopefully something we can exploit.”

The Proteas will be defending the top Test ranking they claimed in England this year and Smith said beating Australia Down Under again was the next stepping stone.

“We’d love the opportunity to create a legacy. You’ve got to take steps at a time,” he said.

“In international cricket today, there’s a number of teams who have touched the number one ranking. “This is the next stepping stone for us, and it’s a big challenge. We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We believe we have the capabilities to create that, but you’ve got to go and earn it.”

Meanwhile, skipper Michael Clarke wants Australia’s batsmen to blunt the vaunted South African pace attack by waging a war of attrition. 

The Proteas boast Test cricket’s two top-ranked bowlers -- Steyn and Philander -- but Clarke says Australia’s best chance of dethroning the number one ranked South Africans is to wear down their strike weapons.

The tourists have only brought four pace bowlers to Australia and Clarke senses an opportunity to erode their effectiveness throughout the three Tests.Clarke, who has still to decide on his own bowling attack, wants batsmen to occupy the crease for long periods to test the physical endurance of Steyn, and Philander.

“It’s certainly the hardest time to bat against the bowler’s first spell,” Clarke told a Test-eve press conference in Brisbane yesterday.

“The longer they are out in the field the heavier their legs become so as a batting group we’re really keen to spend as much time out in the middle as possible.

“They have only four fast bowlers in their touring party and if we can make them spend as much time in the field as possible, hopefully that we will put us in good stead for the next two Tests.”

Steyn, 287 wickets in 57 Tests, and Philander, 63 wickets in just 10 Tests, are likely to be backed up by Morne Morkel, all-rounder Jacques Kallis and leg-spinner Imran Tahir in South Africa’s first Test in Brisbane in 49 years.

“They are experienced and they have a very good attack,” Clarke said.

“We know we have to be at our best and we’re prepared for that, we know what’s coming, we know what we are about to face and we’re excited about the challenge.”

Australia: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wk), Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), Jacques Rudolph, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir. AGENCIES

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