South Africa happy to be favourites for series

ROB FORSAITH
Last updated 06:40 12/02/2014
graeme smith
GOOD WITH THE NEW BALL: Graeme Smith.

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This Test series will not be a battle for underdog status, South Africa start heavy favourites and that's exactly the way Graeme Smith likes it.

On the eve of the opening Test in Centurion, Smith made no attempt to hide the supreme confidence his side has developed during an amazing run in which they haven't lost a Test series since 2009.

"If you are the No.1 team in the world you have to be favourites," said Smith, whose team took the No.1 ICC ranking in August 2012 and are yet to relinquish it.

"It's something we have become accustomed to and we've become very comfortable with it.

"We've been No.1 in the world for a period of time and travelled to some tough places to firstly get it, and to defend it."

So much analysis of the three-Test series has focused on the two pace attacks widely considered the best in the world.

Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn sit No.1 and No.2 on the ICC's Test bowling rankings, but South Africa's batting depth is arguably the side's strength.

AB de Villiers tops the ICC's batting rankings, while run-machine Hashim Amla is fourth.

"Our batting unit flies a little bit under the radar," Smith said.

"Our guys' records over the last few seasons have been really good. Our partnerships have been impressive.

"It's not just one or two people. Hashim and AB have done really well and scored big runs of late, but everyone's contributed when needed which is exciting."

The retirement of Jacques Kallis has weakens the Proteas' batting order, but new No.4 Faf du Plessis is capable of great innings.

Kallis' absence will also be felt in the slips cordon.

"It'll be a lot quieter, certainly. I won't have anyone bothering me for the 90 overs," Smith laughed.

"I played 105 Test matches with Jacques so there is naturally going to be a bit of a change, but I think we've had time to adapt now.

"We've had a month, I've done a lot of training next to 'Viro' (Aliviro Petersen) at second slip and Faf at third. You start to adapt, that's the nature of sport. There's new heroes."

The Test series starts at 9.30pm NZT on Wednesday.

SOUTH AFRICAN STARS' TEST BATTING RECORD AGAINST AUSTRALIA:

* Faf du Plessis - overall average of 60.15, averages 146.5 v Aust with 1 century
* AB de Villiers - overall average of 51.71, averages 46.62 v Aust with 4 centuries
* Hashim Amla - overall average of 51.34, averages 51.1 v Aust with 4 centuries
* Graeme Smith - overall average of 49.56, averages 39.36 v Aust with 3 centuries
* Alviro Petersen - overall average of 38.82, averages 33.33 v Aust with 0 centuries
* JP Duminy - overall average of 32.88, averages 48.62 v Aust with 1 century.

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