Johannesburg, Nov.26 : As South Africa get ready to take on Bangladesh in the second Test at the Centurion Park, one of the oldest cricket grounds in South Africa, South African skipper Graeme Smith is looking ahead to the tour of Australia, and has warned that the class of exciting Proteas pacer Dale Steyn will be on full display.
A much mellowed Smith said that his team and he would arrive in Perth next month with the most potent South African pace attack since Allan Donald struck fear into the hearts of Test batsmen in the mid-1990s.
The emergence of 25-year-old Steyn as the world's leading fast bowler has much to do with this new sense of security. The brilliant right-arm quick, who has taken 59 wickets this year at 18, will spearhead an attack comprising the towering Morne Morkel and veteran Makhaya Ntini, with uncapped left-arm swing bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe in reserve.
"Dale had an incredible season last year, and he has got the ability to exploit weaknesses. He's got pace; he's got swing. Morne is not bowling his best at the moment but he also has potential, and obviously Makhaya basically leads our attack. We have a pretty varied pace attack. We have different angles, we have swing; we have pace, so if anyone is capable of opening up mistakes or opportunities, it is going to be our attack," Smith told the Herald in a phone hook-up to mark the ICC's work with HIV-AIDS awareness.
In 2005-06, the forthright Smith made himself a target by attacking the Australians on every front, taking particular aim at Ricky Ponting in suggesting the captain was struggling to assert his authority with Shane Warne in the team.
Australia then recorded a 2-0 win in an occasionally spiteful series.
"The team is in a very different frame of mind now than what it was in 2005. It is a lot more settled, we've had real success and, as a captain, I feel as if this is really my environment. I've played a big part in developing a lot of the guys who have come through," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Smith, as saying.
Steyn and Morkel should enjoy the pace and bounce of Australian wickets, particularly in Perth, and Steyn's express brand of swing is precisely the type of bowling that has troubled champion opener Matthew Hayden, who is coming towards the end of his career and desperate to show his reflexes have not waned.
"It's going to be about adapting to the conditions we face over there. Australia do bat deep. Matthew Hayden is a world-class performer and as a left-hand opening batter, his record is incredible. If you can keep Matthew Hayden quiet, if you can keep Ricky Ponting quiet, or most of the top six, you're giving yourself the best opportunity to perform well. We will be well prepared."
Proteas coach Mickey Arthur has already declared his team capable of defeating Australia in the three-Test series, and Smith confirmed wresting away the No.1 crown was a driving ambition.
"It [the India result] is not going to pull the wool over our eyes in terms of the challenge we are going to face but it has opened a few ideas for us, a few thoughts and things for us to think about tactically when we go to Australia," Smith said.
"They always say the wind blows harder at the top of the tree and it's not easy up there. I think Australia have handled that mantle very well over the last decade. Everyone is chasing them and wants to knock them down, and any other team that does that will have to deal with that challenge," said Smith.