Bloodied but unbowed

The ‘new’ South African team was almost buoyant after their hardest day on tour so far. Graeme Smith may be at the forefront of the new attitude but his team are undoubtedly behind him.

While the captain was paying tribute to Nasser Hussain and Mark Butcher, the rest of the team were warming down on the Trent Bridge outfield with fitness specialist Adrian le Roux. On the way back to the pavilion they signed hundreds of autographs and chatted to South African fans who had traveled from Jo’burg and Cape Town especially for the match.

If this was a team feeling bruised and battered after a day of chasing leather, they were doing an extraordinary job of disguising it.

On the scheduled fifth day of the Lord’s Test, when Smith’s team were given the day off after winning by an innings on the fourth day, Smith was sitting in the lobby of the team hotel being interviewed (for a change!). It was 6.00 p.m.

During a 15 minute period Smith was greeted by Neil McKenzie, Gary Kirsten, Boeta Dippenaar, Andrew Hall and Jacques Rudolph. They were all returning from runs around the parks of London.

“You see, that’s the kind of culture that exists in this squad now. Even on a day off the guys want to work, they want to be the fittest and the best. As a team and as a unit we are not scared of hard work. In fact, we thrive on it.”

And so it was at Trent Bridge on Thursday. Smith and his team knew they “had been in a fight,” but, according to the captain, “we gave as good as we got.”

The power of positive thinking has also transformed the team’s approach. It would be all too easy to be thinking of an England total of 500+ but, instead, Smith suggested to his bowlers that they had done well to restrict England to a total of under 300 on a perfect batting wicket on the first day and reminded everyone that if England could be bowled out for around 400 then a big lead, courtesy of the in-form batsmen, was perfectly possible.

It was rousing stuff.

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