Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
1 Mar 2014
10:00 am

Smith brings incomparable legacy to final Aussie Test

Heinz Schenk

If the Proteas go on to win the third and deciding Test against Australia at Newlands starting today, the achievement of winning a home series against these tourists for the first time since re-admission will be due to the quiet brilliance of captain Graeme Smith.

FILE PICTURE: South African cricket captain Graeme Smith. Picture: Marwan Naamani/AFP

It’s pretty certain that if ever there was a South African eleven that would achieve this potential milestone, it’s this one.

Of course, if they do pull it off, a brilliant generation of cricketers will have played their part – Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, as well as retirees Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini among them.

But the essential factor for the match that starts today is the 33-year-old captain.

Let’s look at his record. He’s played more Tests (108) and also won more (53) than any skipper.

As leader, he has taken this team to the top of the rankings and cemented their position to such an extent that they’re still streets ahead on ranking points.

“If you’re in the job for as long as I have been, you certainly get the opportunities to tick all these boxes,” he quipped yesterday.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us. We’ve had a few obstacles along the way. The team is in a good space.”

Last weekend’s sterling win in Port Elizabeth was characterised by a return to form of kingpins such as Steyn and Amla. This has led some cricket afficianados to think it’s time Smith did the same at his home ground.

“Ultimately, it’s only been the two games in this series where I haven’t scored a lot of runs. I feel like I’ve been batting well this season, I made a 200 against Pakistan and made good contributions against India,” he said.

“I felt I was unlucky in Centurion and let myself down in PE. But I’ve really focused hard on my preparation and (got) done what I wanted to be done. It’s now about getting in and making a play.”

In many ways, this series could represent a bit of a swansong for this team. Their next few Test assignments will be against lower-key opponents. Smith says that there’s still a lot more that he wants to achieve in the game. He’ll be hoping that this team will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

“I hope it’s not the subtle conclusion to a chapter after this,” he said. “We’ve only lost about one series in eight years. That needs to be embraced and enjoyed. If we go on to win, it’s another step in what this team has been able to create.” He added that the Proteas’ recent scheduling has made long runs of form difficult. “But we’ve dealt with it so well. A series win here would really be a feather in our cap.”

And Smith’s.