Smith expects off-field verbals

Graeme Smith expects a war of words between both South Africa and Australia ahead of the first Test beginning next Wednesday.

Aussie coach Tim Nielsen began the sparring a week ago when he said the Proteas had been “talking themselves up a they’d better play better than they’ve ever played before.” Smith acknowledged this probably wouldn’t be the last of the mind games ahead of the Test at the Waca beginning on 17 December.

“I think their coach has already done that [started it off],” said Smith. “But at the end of the day I don’t think it’s really necessary.

“Things will pick up as the build-up goes towards the first Test. I’m sure there’ll be a few things flying each way. But I just think there’s a general really good respect for each other and the ability of both teams. Most of it is going to be played out in the middle and pretty tough.”

Shane Warne, arguably South Africa’s greatest nemesis on the pitch and off it in terms of mind games, won’t play against the South Africans for the first time since Smith has been involved. The South African captain said he won’t be missed from the visitors’ perspective as it’s “nice just to see him at a braai”.

“It’s hard to replace that sort of guy,” he said. “His ability to pick up wickets, his ability to change the game, and also to get into other people’s psyche. He was very good at that.”

Despite many assumptions that Australia are vulnerable due to their loss to India, Smith said they “are certainly not ready to be taken”. “In these conditions they are certainly going to be a huge challenge for any team,” he said. “If we can earn the victories and play our brand of cricket it would be wonderful to be the first [South African] team to win [a series in Australia].”