Durban, more away than home for South Africa
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Kingsmead has never been a happy hunting ground for Graeme Smith — neither with the bat nor while he's held the reins for South Africa. The opener averages only 31.52 in 11 Tests with just a single century. Four defeats in four previous Tests is a good enough reason for the South African captain to not feel at peace in Durban.
Close to five years now, he's fostered another pet peeve with the historic venue, one that was finally resolved on Tuesday. For, when Smith walked into the home team pavilion, he discovered that his appeal had finally been met. The South African dressing-room at Kingsmead now proudly boasted of having an air-conditioner.
Smith couldn't hide a sheepish smile when, after sitting engrossed for 10 minutes while answering queries relating to various issues, he was reminded about the brand-new AC. "Yes, it's been a long time coming. Our fast bowlers will certainly be looking forward to make the most of the AC for which we batsmen will have to bat for long periods," he quipped.
The delight regarding the air-conditioned dressing-room may have been short-lived for Smith and his team as they soon sauntered out into the middle, the batsmen in particular — Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Alviro Petersen — for a recce of the Kingsmead wicket. It was the same one that has been their scourge for four consecutive years now, the losses including the one to India the last time they played here and a 208-run defeat against Sri Lanka—two subcontinent teams without a reputation of doing well outside Asia.
Despite having come within eight runs of an incredible world-record run-chase, the Wanderers Test also left Smith and the South Africans with a couple of serious headaches to deal with, particularly in the bowling department. Morne Morkel had been given a 20 per cent chance for his twisted ankle to recover at the end of the final day's play in Johannesburg.
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