Cape Town: Graeme Smith's personal triumphs as the world's most experienced captain and the collective ruthlessness of South Africa's fast bowlers threaten to again dominate the second Test against Pakistan at Newlands and secure another series victory.
Smith will receive more accolades on Thursday when he leads his team out for the 100th time in a Test. He celebrated his 100th Test as a captain in the Proteas' heavy 211-run victory in the opening test two weeks ago, having also skippered the World XI once.
This time it's 100 as South Africa captain and Smith said on Wednesday, "That means the most."
Smith's pacemen will be preying on the tourists' possible doubts, he said, after bowling them out for 49 in the first innings in Johannesburg, where South Africa won a fourth straight test and put itself in position to claim a sixth straight series victory.
"They allowed us to bowl at them a little bit," Smith said of Pakistan's batting failures at the Wanderers. "We managed to control the run rate and that allowed us to attack them more. Hopefully there is that mindset of tentativeness and I think that'll play in our favour."
All 20 Pakistan wickets fell to South Africa's quicks in the first Test, with 15 of them caught behind the wicket to leave the Pakistan batsmen's techniques open to scrutiny.
"I guess any time you have that many caught behinds you have to have a look at how you're leaving the ball," Smith said.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq had already conceded that it might be a steep learning curve for his team — and especially his batters — in the three-test series against the world's best Test unit. Coach Dav Whatmore identified shot selection as Pakistan's biggest problem against a bowling lineup he knew would be a big challenge.
"The nucleus of their (South Africa's) attack is four good fast bowlers," Whatmore said. "You will expect that in every game they play the bulk of the wickets will be coming from those. So, from that point of view, it wasn't a surprise at all. They bowled very well, though.
"Shot selection is the main thing with any batsman. Being able to assess length and direction and make a decision. If you make 90 or 100 correct decisions you are going to make a lot of runs. Once you start making incorrect decisions, well then you have a bit of a problem."
Smith's decade-long spell in charge of South Africa's test team will be recognized in his 100th game as skipper at his home ground at Newlands, following straight on from the celebrations dedicated to the country's most successful captain in Johannesburg — his city of birth — at the beginning of the month.
"Representing South Africa 100 times as captain is the mark that means the most to me," Smith said. "Being a part of this team is something that's very important to myself and the rest of the guys, so to achieve a milestone in these colors is something that I will remember for a very long time."
The visitors are likely to turn to 2.16-meter (7-foot-1) fast bowler Mohammad Irfan for his debut in the second match in Cape Town after fellow left-armer Junaid Khan was ruled out with a right thigh injury.
"A fit Irfan bowling well will always be a bit of a threat to the opposition," Whatmore said. "This will be his first game if he plays so it will be a big occasion for him. He'll need to absorb the pressure playing against some good batsmen. It's always nice to have him on your side, though."
Smith rated Pakistan, boosted by Irfan, as a team capable of dramatic improvement over a short time.
In one of its best spells, South Africa has beaten Sri Lanka, New Zealand, England and Australia away, and New Zealand again in its last five contests, and last lost a series four years ago against Australia. That was its only defeat in its last 22 series dating to 2006-07.
Pakistan had been recently consistent, winning four of five series before its meeting with the top-ranked South Africans.