x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

South Africa dismiss Australia's mind games

Dossiers profiling Proteas find their way to the media but captains say actions on the field on the day matter.

Michael Clarke, left, and Graeme Smith kept it professional at the presentation ceremony yesterday.
Michael Clarke, left, and Graeme Smith kept it professional at the presentation ceremony yesterday.

BRISBANE // Australian attempts at mind games ahead of the Test series against South Africa were at worst irrelevant and at best a motivation to the tourists, Graeme Smith said yesterday.

The South African captain's reaction came as Australia also tried to play it down after local media reported a leak of the team management's dossiers on their rivals for the three Tests starting today.

Individual plans for targeting South African players, including psychological profiling, supposedly derived from an Australian team dossier were published in the Courier-Mail newspaper yesterday.

"It doesn't really make a difference to be honest with you," Smith told reporters at the Gabba.

"We know in our minds what we're expecting over the next few days. The most important thing for us was our preparation. I think we've done that really well and we're looking forward to starting tomorrow.

Smith's Proteas side are unbeaten on the road in Test series for six years and coming to Australia fresh from having earned the No 1 ranking by beating England in the UK. "In terms of that stuff, it's neither here nor there, it's all going to start tomorrow," Smith said.

His counterpart Michael Clarke denied knowledge of the papers and said: "I can only talk from my behalf - no, not that I know of.

"Good read, wasn't it? There's certainly information in there that's common knowledge.

"We as a team don't have an official dossier, as such. We look at footage, we talk about opposition players, we study opposition strengths and weaknesses as a bowling group and a batting group.

"There was some other stuff in there that was quite an interesting read ... [that] we certainly haven't spoken about.

"At the end of the day we have plans for every opposition we play against and it's no different against South Africa."

"Both teams would have read the papers, that's for sure. That's what we do. The most important thing for me is, it's not about what you say, it's about what you do.

"That's the Australian team's attitude at the moment, making sure tomorrow morning we turn up," the captain said even though the hosts were still not sure who will be the 12th man.

Ricky Ponting, the former captain, was fit to play after being troubled by hamstring soreness, while the Test debutant Rob Quiney will bat at No 3.

Clarke said he would like to fight fire with fire as South Africa form a formidable opponent with a strong batting line-up and two top-ranked bowlers in Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

Steyn, 287 wickets in 57 Tests, and Philander, 63 wickets in just 10 Tests, are likely to be backed up by Morne Morkel, Jacques Kallis and the leg-spinner Imran Tahir in South Africa's first Test in Brisbane in 49 years.

With five of the world's top nine pacemen in action and with the top test ranking at stake, the three-match series is destined to be fast and furious, especially on a wicket like the Gabba.

"The wicket looks good. There might be a little bit in the wicket on day one, but the Gabba generally turns into a pretty good batting wicket," Clarke said.

"The longer they are out in the field the heavier their legs become so as a batting group we're really keen to spend as much time out in the middle as possible."

Four years ago, South Africa won a tight three-match series 2-1 for their first triumph on Australian soil. That was under the guidance of Mickey Arthur, who now coaches the hosts.

Arthur has obviously shared his knowledge of the South Africans with his new charges and made a few public comments about perceived weaknesses, most notably that Steyn did less well against left-handers.

That said, though, Smith said he expected a businesslike approach from his team in Brisbane.

"When you play in other people's back yards, there's a different kind of pressure," he said. "When good teams play each other, there's small margins. You need to be able to handle those small margins better than the other team if you are going to be victorious.

"Our goal is to match up again like we did in 2008 and 2009. I don't expect us to be too emotional about things, I think if we can be really focused and clinical in the next five days, I'll be happy."

Clarke was also unequivocal about his side's approach. "I wouldn't be surprised if you saw plenty of short stuff, that's for sure," he said.

"We know there is a line that you can't cross, but we'll be pushing that line."

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