How the Durban pitch will play out for Australia

The coming pace shootout between Australia and South Africa could be sullied by slow pitches, with Nathan Lyon quipping his homeland is the only country where curators enjoy autonomy.

The four-Test series starting on Thursday is being billed as a battle between the two best pace attacks in the world.

Surfaces in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg will shape whether the contest lives up to the hype.

South Africa asked for pitches with plenty of pace and bounce during India's recent tour, leading to early finishes and a Test at the Wanderers almost being abandoned because of safety concerns.

Steve Smith expects far more docile decks during his side's visit, while Proteas coach Ottis Gibson insists he hasn't made any requests to groundsmen.

"I know all the curators in Australia would tell us where to go if we tried to suggest to take all the grass off and make it spin," Lyon said in Durban.

"It is what it is these days, you see it all around the world (teams influencing curators).

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Will Nathan Lyon make the most of the wicket? Pic: Getty

"In Australia we don't do it. I know that for a fact. I'm expecting flatter wickets than they had for the Indian series."

Smith also predicted a series of slow and low pitches, long before he arrived in South Africa.

"I didn't think they'd have a great deal of pace," he said.

"It looks like it could be quite slow (in Durban), maybe not a great deal of carry.

"It's just about summing it up when we're out there and adapting."

Kingsmead, where the action begins this week, has long been renowned as the home of the green mamba - a strip as venomous as the snake species in nearby forests.

Proteas opener Dean Elgar noted that reputation is outdated.

"Durban's wickets have changed over the years," Elgar told reporters.

"I haven't played a game here since the last England Test. That was quite low and slow.

"I don't see it being too dissimilar to what we had against England."

Lyon, who worked as a groundsman at Adelaide Oval before becoming Australia's most prolific offspinner, is keeping an open mind about the wicket.

"Hopefully it will spin ... it looks like a pretty good pitch," the world's leading Test wicket-taker in 2017 said.

Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have already vowed to continue the bouncer barrage they successfully unleashed against England.

Veteran spearhead Dale Steyn remains sidelined by a heel injury but the Proteas boast match-winning quicks in Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.

Elgar suggested left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj also had a big role to play.

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