New Zealand in SA

Fitting backdrop to Biff’s '100'

2013-01-15 12:10
Graeme Smith (Gallo)
Cape Town - The planets will be beautifully aligned when Graeme Smith, barring sudden injury mishap in the meantime, leads in Test cricket for the 100th time in the first clash against Pakistan at the Wanderers from February 1.

For one thing, the keenly-awaited, three-Test series between two “top half” powers in world cricket begins on the occasion of Smith’s 32nd birthday.

It also occurs in Johannesburg, city of the big left-hander’s birth and schoolboy education, even though he has spent most of his adult life here, and as part of the Cape Cobras’ armoury.

Smith will also be playing his 10th Test in the famous Bullring; he has scored 722 runs in his prior nine matches at the ground, at an average of 48.13 which is only slightly down on his career average from 107 overall Tests of 49.28.

Already having comfortably beaten Allan Border’s earlier record of 93 appearances as captain for Australia (1984-94), Smith will also be first ever to reach the three-figure mark knowing that, of current other captains on the Test circuit, he is way ahead.

His closest rival, and presently also aged 31, is India’s skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who stands on 43 caps as captain.

Knowledge that his team remains safely installed as the top-ranked Test nation, following their 2-0 slaughter of New Zealand, will only be cause for further satisfaction for “Biff” as he achieves the milestone.

The match will be Smith’s 99th as leader of the Proteas, considering that he also captained a Rest of the World XI in an official, once-off Test against Australia in 2005.

Just as appropriately, though, it means that his 100th as his own national side’s leader will come in the second Test against Pakistan at Newlands.

 Meanwhile, Smith has earned glowing praise in the aftermath of the latest demolition job by the national side from former SA batsman Peter Kirsten.

Now a popular SABC radio and television commentator, Kirsten, whose own Test career was badly affected by isolation, says he is pleased to have been part of the national cricket committee which recommended that Smith be installed as Shaun Pollock’s replacement in 2003.

“He started off slowly as a young man and made some mistakes, as you’d expect,” Kirsten told the Cricinfo website in an audio interview, in the aftermath of the St George’s Park Test against the Black Caps, which the Proteas again won by an innings.

“But he also learnt along the way and it’s fantastic he has been able to last as long as he has in the post.

“Graeme has had his critics but I believe he is the best captain currently in world cricket.

“A hundred Tests as captain, while keeping his batting very effective, is some feat – I am not sure it will ever be beaten. Congratulations to him on what (will be) a fantastic achievement.”

 Kirsten said that he was coaching Western Province at the time of Smith’s shift southward.

“You could quickly see at the time that he was an eager youngster and had all the credentials you need for Test cricket - he also just wanted leadership.

“He was a quick thinker and he had presence ... that was the big thing.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  nz in sa  |  graeme smith  |  cricket
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