Smith not intimidated by England

2009-12-24 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s captain is more than happy to be England’s primary target going into the second Test on Saturday.

“Since the age of 22 when I fist captained the side, I have had the added pressure of making runs while being a captain,” a bullish Graeme Smith said at Kingmsead yesterday.

Kevin Pietersen had earlier spoken of the importance of knocking over Smith early, but the burly left-hander laughed off suggestions that he might be feeling pressure after a quiet first Test.

“Well, good luck to them if they are planning around that. I have my own plans that have worked well for me thus far and, if anything, I thrive on that sort of pressure.

It might be the season to be merry and make friends, but the tension between the two sides has been evident in this week’s press conferences.

England know they got out of jail, while Smith has already claimed the moral victory after last Sunday’s unexpected late drama at Centurion.

“I think our batters showed that we can make runs against their attack, not only last week but also on tour there last year.

“We have put on some big scores against this attack, so we want to apply a bit more pressure to their own batting unit,” Smith confidently explained.

Sticking the foot in, the Proteas leader then offered a thinly veiled attack on England’s insistence on six specialist batsmen, even if it looks to affect the balance of their side.

“I think they have question marks about their line-up, and the effect of a collapse like last Sunday’s has obviously made them very conservative.

“We will be certainly looking to expose their middle-order here, and look to see how they react to that sort of situation.”

Smith praised Joanathan Trott’s contribution thus far, but cautioned that they had plans that they were trying to implement against the England number three.

“It is a bit harder to do that when a man is playing well, but we want to get him in early and try to make him play in a way that he is not so comfortable,” Smith said.

Smith’s own side looks almost certain to welcome back Dale Steyn, and Friedel de Wet will be the one to miss out, despite his heroics in the latter stages of the first rubber.

“It’s exciting to see Friedel come in and do so well, but if Dale comes back, it will be a straight swop.

“Makhaya [Ntini] has been an integral part of this side from before I even came into the side, and I will hope that his experience comes to the fore in this series.”

Smith added that Morné Morkel had also impressed him, and that the variety offered by the Titans beanpole made it very difficult to leave him out.

Steyn’s progress from injury has been closely monitored, and Smith said they had actually been surprised when he showed up stiff at Centurion.

“It is something that we are watching day by day, but we certainly don’t want to get into a situation where we are only making a decision on the morning of the game.”

The possibility of Jacques Kallis also bowling is one that Smith hopes materialises, and he said that the all-rounder’s progress would also be closely followed over the next two days.

“It is ideal to have Jacques bowling, because we can rotate our attack and have different options. But it is hard to speculate on these things, and we will see how he gets through training over the next few days.”

It is set up to be an intriguing clash, with the stakes that much higher now.

The loser in this match will have to win the last two Test matches to take the series — a titanic challenge when one considers how closely these two heavyweights are matched.

It’s not called the Boxing Day Test for nothing and, come Saturday morning, the gloves may come off between two sides who just about get along.

So much for the festive spirit.

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