After suffering a six-wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa in the second Test at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth on Monday (March 12), Australia skipper Steve Smith has expressed concern over his team’s fragile middle order that capitulated in front of Kagiso Rabada’s reverse swinging deliveries on an opening day.
Australian openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft stitched a highly impressive 98-run stand in the first hour of play on Day 1. However, in the second session Aussie batsmen had no answer to Rabada’s menacing reverse swing as they collapsed from 161/3 to 182/8. Rabada scalped 5 for 96 in the first innings as Australia got bundled out for 243.
"When the ball reversed, the middle-order (in the first innings) didn't do their job. That was probably the part that hurt us the most. We were outplayed," Steve Smith quoted as saying by Cricbuzz.
Smith admitted Australia fell short with the bat but remained optimistic about his team.
"I actually think we weren't too far away. Probably 75 runs (short) in the first innings and 50 odd in the second innings. Another 125 runs [and] things could have been different," he added.
Given the fact that Kagiso Rabada has been suspended by the ICC for the next two Tests because of his inappropriate physical contact with Steve Smith during the first day’s play in Port Elizabeth, Australian batters will certainly heave a sigh of relief in the next Test, scheduled to be held at Newlands, Cape Town on March 22. However, Smith believes it won’t make much of a difference in their preparation and planning.
"If he's there (in Cape Town), he's there...if he's not, he's not and it's our job to have a plan either way," Smith said.
"If we're getting batters scoring big hundreds then that helps us out. Unfortunately we haven't been able to do that but we have a good opportunity to turn it around in the next two Tests," he added.
After the controversial first Test in Durban, Smith commended the behaviour of his team in Port Elizabeth.
"I thought we behaved really well. We played in really good spirit and played good, hard cricket," he concluded.