Proteas not taking wounded Australia lightly

Standard Bank Proteas batsman Hashim Amla

Standard Bank Proteas batsman Hashim Amla

The Standard Bank Proteas will be treating Australia with the same respect they have shown throughout the series in the fourth Sunfoil Test match starting at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Friday. The visitors will be without three players – Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft – following the 322-run loss in Cape Town, after Cricket Australia imposed immediate sanctions following the ball-tampering incident.

Amla says the two-day break has given the squad time to digest and to move on from the off-field distractions, which have dominated the headlines and worldwide interest. The Proteas remain motivated and focused on the job at hand, and will not be underestimating their opponents even though they are missing two of their best batsmen.

“ The pressure that we have is performing at our best, that is the pressure we feel,” he said to the media in Johannesburg on Wednesday. “ We haven’t played our best cricket, hopefully we can in this Test match. Not having their two best players puts them in a predicament, but who is to say that the players coming in won’t perform better. You should never take your eye off the ball. Everyone wants to do well and excel, you have to respect everybody. International cricket is about affording your opponent’s respect, that is an important and crucial thing about international sport and cricket.”

The stakes may be heavily in favour for the Proteas after the resounding victory in Cape Town, but the squad admits they are far from playing their best cricket after two consecutive wins. Amla admits there is sympathy towards the Australian players who have been suspended, but says it is ‘all about the cricket’ as the squad prepares for a historic moment.

“ We are very motivated,” he said of the squad morale. “ I don’t think South Africa has won a home series against Australia since re-admission, there is a lot for us to play for. At the start of the series that was the motivation, we wanted to be the first team to achieve that. We have played relatively good cricket, I wont say we have played our best cricket, but we have played well enough to be 2-1 up in the series. We are always looking to get better.

“ We have to prepare to win a Test series,” he stressed. “ With all the distractions that have followed, there isn’t much you can do from our perspective. I am grateful that I am sitting in a South African changeroom, 2-1 up without the shadows hanging over us. For us it’s about the cricket, we have to keep the focus, we are international sportsmen and that is what we have to do.”

Amla says the incident that has marred the ongoing series will give teams around the world a ‘reality check’ on how to conduct themselves in the gentleman’s game.

“It probably gives every team in the world a reality check as to what kind of cricket they want to play,” he admitted. “It will give the ICC a lot more headaches and the opportunity now is for governing bodies to show us where the ‘line’ is. It gives us an opportunity to pull back and to see what type of cricket we want to play. I have always believed we have played our cricket as best as we can, with a few mistakes here and there, but that is the stuff you learn from and you move on.”