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Australia in South Africa 2014: Graeme Smith downplays hype surrounding Mitchell Johnson

Graeme Smith said South Africa have prepared well for the second Test match © Getty Images
Graeme Smith said South Africa have prepared well for the second Test match © Getty Images

Port Elizabeth: Feb 19, 2014

South African captain Graeme Smith on Wednesday played down the “hype” around Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson ahead of the second Test which starts at St George’s Park on Thursday.

Johnson destroyed the South African batting in the first Test at Centurion with match figures of 12 for 127, spearheading Australia to a 281-run win.

“It’s important not to get caught up in the hype,” said Smith. “Obviously Mitchell bowled extremely well and bowled aggressively.

“We all know that creates headlines, stories and fanfare. There’s huge respect in our team for someone who is performing well but it’s important for us to focus on getting our skills right.”

Smith said there had been no special attention paid to Johnson either by the team or himself personally. Smith faced four balls from Johnson in the first Test and was dismissed twice.

“I’ve faced Mitchell a lot of times – times where he’s had the better of me and times where I have had the better of him. The wicket at Centurion with the new ball and the cracks played a really important role.

“We’ve had a general group discussion on areas that we want to improve. We haven’t watched any more video or anything different than we did before the first Test.

“I can watch videotapes of me scoring hundreds against Mitchell Johnson. Every player here has had success against this attack, not so long ago.”

The South African captain said his team had prepared well as they set out to reverse a crushing defeat in the first Test.

“I believe our mindsets and our game plans are good. Ultimately it’s about walking the walk now and going out over the next five days and being able to produce the performances to show that,” he said.

Smith said South Africa would put their experiences in the first Test to good use.

“It’s a fairly quick turnaround which I believe is a good thing. We’ve got straight back into our work and had some good discussions,” he said.

“I think we lacked a bit of real competitive cricket coming into this series and we were outplayed. We’ve now got to get ourselves back into the series over the next five days and I’m hoping we’ll be better for it.”

Speculation that South Africa would opt for a seventh specialist batsman to replace injured all-rounder Ryan McLaren was fuelled when Dean Elgar had a lengthy net during the team’s final practice.

But Smith said the make-up of the team would only be discussed when selection convener Andrew Hudson arrived in Port Elizabeth later on Wednesday.

But Smith had a swipe at his country’s administrators, who announced on Tuesday that Elgar and fellow Test squad member Thami Tsolekile had not had their central contracts renewed.

“It’s obviously tough,” he said. “My role is to hopefully keep them focused on what’s important and that’s tomorrow. If they get an opportunity to play hopefully that’s an opportunity for them to put it right.

“It’s another curve ball that’s tough to deal with but we’ve got to find a way.”

The South African captain said he expected a “normal” Port Elizabeth pitch. “We don’t come here that often in the longer form of the game. Obviously we’ll be happy with a result wicket but we’ll be happy with a good Test wicket.”

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