Graeme Smith confident he can win ugly against Mitchell Johnson

 

As Graeme Smith reminded everyone on Wednesday, he has made a career out of “looking ugly”. Yet after the 281-run defeat to Australia in the first Test last week, the South African captain will need to call on every bit of experience he has garnered from almost 11 years in the job to deal with the revitalised Mitchell Johnson.

England’s destroyer-in-chief was at it again at Centurion, taking just four balls to twice claim the scalp of the captain on his way to match figures of 12 for 127 in a crushing victory. But Smith is nothing if not a believer in his own ability, so his sniffiness over Johnson’s recent successes before the second Test, which starts in Port Elizabeth this morning, was not altogether surprising.

“I truly believe that the wicket played a big role in the success that he had. The stats, even in the Ashes, say that he picked up a lot of lower-order wickets,” Smith said, conveniently ignoring the fact that eight of Johnson’s latest haul were top-six batsmen. “It’s important not to get caught up in the hype. Obviously we know Mitchell has bowled extremely well, bowled aggressively. We all know that creates headlines, creates stories, creates fanfare.”

Smith added: “I’ve faced Mitchell a lot of times – times where he’s had the better of me and times I’ve had the better of him. One dismissal doesn’t make you lose credibility. A lot of guys have been able to perform against the fastest bowlers in the world over a long time. I’ve made a career out of looking ugly. If I can keep doing that I’ll be happy.”

The decision to insert Australia at Centurion backfired spectacularly on Smith, who is under increased scrutiny from the South African media after the baffling abandonment of their world-record run chase in the first Test against India in December. Victory in the second Test ensured they eventually won that series but former captain Shaun Pollock believes the 33-year-old must lead their recovery.

“I wouldn’t say he’s under any more pressure than usual as captain,” Pollock told The Independent, “but as an opening batsman he has the opportunity to set the tone for the match and if he can post a good score, I can see South Africa coming back.”

It is five years since the Proteas lost two successive Tests – during their last series defeat to Australia in 2008-09.

“I don’t think you can say Johnson has got into their heads but it was a brilliant performance,” Pollock added.

“We’ll have to see whether he can keep up that kind of form for the whole series like he did against England but it’s up to South Africa to come up with a plan.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing