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Smith fires up as battle for top spot gets heated

SOUTH AFRICA captain Graeme Smith has ridiculed aspects of Australia's game plan for the series that will decide the No.1 Test ranking, and taken aim at the hosts' unproven top order.

Smith was far from shocked by the contents of Australia's plans for the Proteas, but promised their publication would ''touch the motivation springs'' for South Africa to repeat their series success in Australia four years ago.

He took issue with the claim his fast bowlers can't back up for third and fourth spells. Nor did Australia's beliefs about Smith, that he is prone to leg before wicket dismissals and heavy footed when out of form, come as a surprise. ''Well, [if he gets out lbw] it won't be the first time and it probably won't be the last,'' he said.

''It's nothing we didn't expect. All of us have played enough against Australia, we know what it's going to take to be victorious here. Our preparation has been clinical and good and intelligent.

''Certainly the stuff that happens in the papers and maybe things Mickey [Arthur] has said have only added motivation for us.''

Of Australia's strategy to wear out the quicks by bringing them back for third and fourth spells, Smith said: ''We've played a lot of cricket together and we haven't always bowled teams out for 100 or 150 … I think we have been equally good in conditions all around the world. You don't travel from 2006 and be unbeaten away from home if you don't have the capability to think on your feet and if you don't have the skill to do different things. I think our guys have proven that. It would be awesome if they don't have to come back for third and fourth spells because it would mean we're ahead in the game.''


The Gabba Test begins on the first anniversary of one such occasion, when Australia were bowled out for 47 in Cape Town. Smith said he hoped to revive some of the doubts that appeared on that disorienting day by getting stuck into Australia's unproven top order.

Australia will send a green top three, in terms of Test experience, into battle against South Africa's fancied pace trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel. Ed Cowan, David Warner and debutant Rob Quiney have played 16 Tests between them.

''The goal is to have our bowlers expose the top order as much as possible. Everyone wants to have a team three down as quickly as possible and give yourself the best opportunity to bowl people out. That inexperience and all the stuff that has been going on hopefully is something we can exploit because it means we've got Australia under pressure,'' Smith said.

''We know because Gary [Kirsten's] daughter turns one tomorrow and she was born on that day [of the Cape Town collapse]. To have Australia 21-9 or something like that is something quite hard to still fathom today. Our goal is to really get into the batting order and create a lot of pressure. If we can do that first up, hopefully we can create a bit of doubt.''

Michael Clarke, who along with Arthur denied the existence of a dossier on the South African players, defended the decision to bat Quiney at No.3 in his first Test rather than take on the job himself.

''I have actually [thought about batting at No.3], I've spoken to Justin Langer and I had some time talking to Ricky [Ponting] about it over the last few days as well,'' Clarke said. ''We think at the moment Rob is best suited to No.3 for this Test match. Hopefully he performs really well and grabs hold of his opportunity. I've said for a while now it doesn't bother me where I bat. Ricky and Michael Hussey are in the exact same boat.

''They don't really care where they bat, it's about what's best suited for the team.''