Smith anticipates stiff challenge
South Africa captain Graeme Smith is expecting to come up against an improved England side in the second Investec Test at Headingley Carnegie.
Andrew Strauss’ hosts were, by their own admission, well off their game as they suffered an innings defeat last week to put their world number one Test status in peril.
South Africa know victory in Leeds, or in the third and final five-day encounter at Lord’s, will be enough to take them to top spot in the International Cricket Council rankings.
Yet Smith is well aware his opponents are capable of much better than they showed in south London, and are likely to demonstrate that fact.
“We don’t come here expecting England to give us anything for free,” said Smith, who flew back to this country only yesterday after travelling home to Cape Town between matches to be at the birth of his first child.
On his return, he was denied any outdoor practice this afternoon, along with his team-mates, as rain - which stayed away for England before lunch - swept over Headingley.
The opener has had a whirlwind two weeks in his personal and public life, but is confident he has taken stock and got himself ready for round two with England during his long flight back to the northern hemisphere on Monday.
“We are going to have to earn it. We have the mindset to do that,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to have a lengthy plane trip, to put everything in perspective. Thirteen or 14 hours alone allows you to do that with what you’ve been through.”
Nonetheless, these inevitably remain momentous times in the 31-year-old’s life.
“Anyone in that space will understand it’s an emotional moment,” he said of the birth of his daughter Cadence, and his near immediate return to duty as captain of his country.
“Having the support of your family is a key factor in what you are trying to achieve.”
Smith’s South Africa will not fall into the obvious trap of trying replicate their outstanding efforts at the Kia Oval, where Hashim Amla became their first Test triple-centurion and the tourists barely put a foot wrong after day one.
“We just want to win the game; you don’t focus on winning by an innings or having someone score 300,” said Smith.
“Those are wonderful moments as a team to be part of, but we’ve had enough time between games to come back to earth and refocus on what we want to achieve as a team.
“We’re also very respectful of England and what they can bring to the party - and we’re certainly not taking anything for granted.
“England are obviously a quality team. They have the capabilities of beating us, and that’s why they’re the number one team in the world.”
South Africa are intent, however, on taking over that mantle - in the short and long term.
“We are training every day to try to be that team,” said Smith.
“We need to walk that walk and go out to the middle and win those games to prove that to people.
“Our mindset is that we would love to be holders of that title.
“We understand that the job’s not done, and it’s not done for a period of time if we want to see ourselves at the top of the rankings for a while.”