SA in New Zealand
Smith back to lead Proteas
Cape Town - Proteas’ captain Graeme Smith will be back to lead his country in the first National Bank Test match at the University Oval in Dunedin on Wednesday.
Smith has made a steady recovery from the bruised fore-arm injury which kept him out of the last two matches of the One-Day International (ODI) series, and has been given the all clear to play after a frustrating period on the sidelines.
“It’s (injury) improving every day and I feel that it has improved enough for me to get onto the field tomorrow, so I’m quite excited about that,” Smith said. “I had a really good build-up to this tour, I worked hard with Jimmy (Cook) and with Rob (Walter) especially, so I was excited to come away here.
“Obviously getting hit in my first net was not an ideal way to start the tour but my focus is on the Test series now. I hope I can perform well and hopefully I can lead the guys to a victorious Test series while also contributing with the bat.”
Vernon Philander has been the talking point in the lead up to the match and why wouldn’t he be, after the sensational start to his Test career. The locals in New Zealand would not have seen Philander in action, but for now his figures are the ones to have raised concerned eye-brows. He has taken 30 wickets in only four matches, including four five-wicket hauls and a 10 wicket-haul and was a constant threat to the Australian and Sri Lankan batsmen.
“He (Philander) has had an unbelievable start to his Test career. He is a differently styled bowler compared to the rest of the attack, he asks a lot of questions, gets the ball in the right areas more often than not, and most often he still gets the ball to talk a little bit on flat wickets.
“He brings a lot of consistency to our attack and I think he has been a real asset to the pace of Dale (Steyn) and Morne (Morkel), he really gives us a good balance in our attack,” Smith added.
South Africa’s bowling attack is complimented by a strong batting line-up, strengthened by the return of the in-form Alviro Petersen and Jacques Rudolph. The Proteas won their last Test fixture against Sri Lanka in January by 10 wickets, with the highlights of the match including Jacques Kallis’ second double-century and centuries a piece from Petersen and AB de Villiers. If everyone is fit, Smith expects to go with the same XI that won the series 2-1.
“I think consistency in selection has been there over the last few years. I think the Test team has toured really well, we have had some good results around the world from 2008, if anything we haven’t played our best cricket at home. It is a mature and settled team and hopefully we can bring that into our play here.”
Kallis is the only injury concern following the strain to his lower back. He came through practice with ease, and a decision on his match fitness will only be made on Wednesday morning.