Smith plays down talk of matching Oval Test thrashing

“WOULD you expect AB to get in?” Graeme Smith was asked at his press conference yesterday.

The South Africa captain pondered for a moment before breaking out into the widest of smiles.

“Hopefully not!” he laughed.

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“AB has got good memories of Headingley but, if he doesn’t have to bat again, I’m sure he’ll be a happy man.”

AB, of course, is AB de Villiers, the South Africa No 5 who did not get a bat in the first Test at the Oval.

That was because the tourists lost only two wickets in 189 overs en route to victory by an innings and 12 runs.

The visitors made 637-2 in their solitary innings, Hashim Amla scoring a South Africa record 311 not out, Jacques Kallis 182 not out and Smith himself 131.

England will hope lightning does not strike so spectacularly at Leeds, where de Villiers scored 174 on South Africa’s last Test appearance in 2008 – a game in which the tourists lost only 10 wickets during the course of completing a 10-wicket win.

Asked whether he thought his side could emulate the empathic nature of their victory at the Oval, Smith presented the straightest of bats.

“I would be guessing if I said ‘yes’,” he said. “Sport is what it is; it’s a fresh game.

“There’s going to be new challenges in this game and who knows what’s going to happen with the weather.

“We need to be able to adapt to how the wicket is playing but we’ve certainly prepared as well, we’ve covered our bases as well, and we understand what we need to do here to be as successful as we were at the Oval.

“But, first and foremost, we just want to win.”

Smith, who has just returned to England following a flying visit home to attend the birth of his daughter, Cadence, is desperate to usurp England at the top of the Test rankings.

However, he seemed at pains yesterday to stress South Africa will be counting no chickens as they seek the victory that would knock England off their perch.

“We’re very respectful of England and what they can bring to the party,” said Smith.

“We certainly aren’t taking anything for granted.

“England are a quality team; they have the capability to beat us and that’s why they are No 1 in the world. We’re just focusing on ourselves and trying not to get too caught up in what’s going on across the fence.”

With no apparent standout side in world cricket at present, Smith is determined to establish a dynasty. “It’s the challenge for all of us to try to open that gap,” he said. “We are training every day to hopefully be the team that can consistently go forward.”