Belfast Telegraph

Smith out to land KO blow, at last

South Africa remain confident they can at last land the ‘knockout punch' on England — at the third attempt.

Graeme Smith's team will start today’s final Test of an “epic” series at The Wanderers in the unenviable position of high-profile hosts who were billed as favourites yet can no longer beat their visitors.

They are 1-0 down with one to play, having twice failed by the narrowest margin to complete victories over England which would have brought them back to Johannesburg 2-1 up.

Their response to the adversity has been to openly order the preparation of a ‘result' pitch, and back their firepower to be greater than England's.

Should they succeed, they will remain in the reckoning to push for the world number one Test ranking place they held until late last year; should they fail, many more tough questions will surely be asked of Smith and coach Mickey Arthur. The captain is not hiding from the truth.

“Being 1-0 down going into the last Test match, there's always pressure around,” he said.

Even so, he retains faith in a team who have been within one wicket of beating England two out of three times — only to lose the other match in near shambolic circumstances.

“We have prepared well again; we can take a lot of good things out of the Cape Town Test match,” Smith added.

“We just lacked a knockout punch. But we played really strong cricket over five days and fought back well after a disappointing Durban Test match.

“In two out of three Test matches, we have come close. You have to give credit to England's resilience. When they have been put under pressure they have handled it well.”

Smith credits England's defiance — when defeat had seemed assured — as the major contribution to a great battle.

“The fact that they have held on for two nine-down draws has created an epic series. It's been great to be a part of it — and obviously we want to get our little bit of victory in this next five days.”

To that end, it seems 20-year-old fast bowler Wayne Parnell is certain to make his debut.

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