Cape Town – Cricket South Africa are anxiously monitoring
his slightly troublesome left ankle, but it seems to be a case of “so far, so
good” for Graeme Smith in the lead-up to the ICC Champions Trophy tournament in
the United Kingdom next month.
Smith is finding a measure of consistency at the crease
after a tentative start to his new responsibility as captain of county outfit
Surrey, which will be heartening news for the Proteas brains trust ahead of the
The burly left-hander has been struggling for first-knock
runs, particularly, in the four-day County Championship, but registered an
unbeaten 48 in the second innings of a drab “London derby” draw with Middlesex
at Lord’s recently, and on Monday followed it up with a breezy 74 as his
charges smashed Hampshire by nine wickets in the Yorkshire Bank 40 limited-overs
The visitors were bowled out for 228 off the last ball of
their 40 overs and, with Smith to the fore, Surrey cantered home in only 31.2
overs in reply.
“Biff” amassed his runs off 55 deliveries with 10 fours and
a six, and was involved in an opening stand of 162 in just 20.3 overs with
unbeaten century-maker Steven Davies.
National coach Gary Kirsten and company will be heartened
not only by Smith’s apparent clean bill of health at this point – though the
ankle has recurring flare-ups – but also his improved form at a good time.
South Africa’s Champions Trophy campaign starts against
India in Cardiff on June 6, and Smith’s 193 ODI-cap experience could be vital,
particularly in the absence of his old senior ally Jacques Kallis, who a little
unexpectedly declared himself unavailable last week.
Smith has not been in vintage touch for the Proteas at ODI
level in recent times, but his big-match temperament is likely to be called
upon in a big way for the event – he also has rich knowledge of sometimes
challenging UK conditions in early summer and a certain aura on those shores
considering his Test run-scoring and captaincy exploits over the years.
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