AB backs battling Smith

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AB_Smith Gallo Images Graeme Smith (left) and ODI captain AB de Villiers.

Any changes to the South African starting XI for Friday’s fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka in Kimberley, will be limited to the bowling unit captain AB de Villiers said after his side had wrapped up the series, meaning another game for Graeme Smith.

Smith is being given every chance to piece together his shattered confidence with De Villiers believing the former captain still has a significant role to play in the one-day team.

“We’ve all been in poor form before, we know what it feels like. All we can do is support him. We back the man 100-percent,” De Villiers said after claiming his first series win as one-day captain due to rain in Bloemfontein.

Smith may want to ask De Villiers if he can bat at No 4, a position which seems to be where all the runs are being made – by those not named Hashim Amla of course. De Villiers, JP Duminy and on Tuesday night Faf du Plessis, have all notched up half-centuries batting in that spot in this series. It’s all part of De Villiers and the management’s decision to “mix things up a bit,” as the skipper described it.

Du Plessis, who often comes in at No 6, was grateful to have more time to build an innings, just as Duminy was in East London. How long they continue to “mix things up” remains to be seen, but as a policy it adds to the flexibility of the side and upsets any rhythm the opposition may try to garner.

Also, all three bat very well together, their speed when running between the wickets looks like it could become a crucial part of the batting strategy in the future.

“Myself, AB and JP run very hard between the wickets so we always push fielders to the limit,” said Du Plessis, who made an excellent 72 in the Bloemfontein match. “It’s nice batting with JP ... He knows where I score my ones, we are always ready to go between the wickets. If you keep the scoreboard ticking over the pressure never really gets to you.

“If you can get four or five singles every over, the odd boundary will come. As a batting unit you are never really under pressure.”

Of course throw Amla – whose wife, Summayya, gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday – and Jacques Kallis back into the mix and the batting looks even stronger. Then there is the strength in depth. Colin Ingram and Alviro Petersen may only have scored 13 and 17, respectively, in Bloemfontein, but even in those brief innings’ they showed some good touches. On the domestic scene, the likes of Dean Elgar and Richard Levi have come close to national selection.

All of which increases the pressure even more on Smith, whose scores in the series so far read: six, 28 and two.

Smith’s one-day average in 24 innings dating back to October 2010 is 27.6 and in that time he has only passed 50 three times. With the captaincy no longer offering ‘protection’ he desperately needs a score in the next two matches of the series.

“I’m expecting runs very soon,” said De Villiers. “We know he is under pressure, but that is part and parcel of the game. No-one is invincible, there is no player from Kallis, Hash, to myself that’s invincible. Poor form is around the corner for all of us and it’s a matter of getting through it.”

For the fourth match in Kimberley, Dale Steyn is likely to be rested, with Wayne Parnell, who has been with the squad throughout the series, likely to get a run. And Johan Botha should start instead of Robin Peterson.

If they are feeling bold – and there’s really no reason they shouldn’t – the selectors may give Vernon Philander, who joined the squad after the second ODI, a run instead of Morné Morkel.

One area De Villiers said they would be looking at again was their fielding. He was, surprisingly, pleased with Tuesday efforts, in spite of the four dropped catches and some miss-fields. “We missed a couple of opportunities with the run outs, but all-in-all it was a really good performance in the field.

“We have won the series, so I am not too worried about that, but we have to work on a few things, we are not a perfect cricket team, there are lots of things to work on and fielding is one of those.”

As for Sri Lanka, they just want the plane home. Tillakaratne Dilshan cut an disconsolate figure after Tuesday night’s D/L aided win for the South Africans, bemoaning his side’s misfortune while also having to deal with an injury to Mahela Jayawardene, who has hurt his back. – The Star


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Stephen, wrote

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04:18pm on 19 January 2012
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Smith's exit is long overdue . Why do other players get to go & rethink & work on their strategies & mental game but Bully Bif gets an indefinite reprisal ? He's a paid professional and non-performers don't get the rewards . Replace him with someone who is doing well & is itching to have a go . I don't say can him , just rotate him until he's back on form . Please do us all a favour De Villiers , selectors & co. Besides , you can't do your job properly as a captain with split loyalties in the team.

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Stephen, wrote

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04:14pm on 19 January 2012
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Smith's exit is long overdue . Why do other players get to go & rethink & work on their strategies & mental game but Bully Bif gets an indefinite reprisal ? He's a paid professional and non-performers don't get the rewards . Replace him with someone who is doing well & is itching to have a go . I don't say can him , just rotate him until he's back on form . Please do us all a favour De Villiers , selectors & co. Besides , you can't do your job properly as a captain with split loyalties in the team.

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markb, wrote

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03:08pm on 19 January 2012
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once again we are fed bulls@@t that he will come right. in the meantime we play with out of form players, ergo our selction policy is NOT to select the best team possible but our buddies who may or may have done some good work a couple of years ago. who are you fooling AB? cant blame them though, they are just taking the cue from higher up, absolute power corrupts absolutely. get on the gravy train, here we look after our own............

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:07pm on 19 January 2012
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AB, seems you will end up like Smith!! A choker!!!

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Anonymous, wrote

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01:27pm on 19 January 2012
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this is why i have lost my interest in watching and supporting the Protea's ... it's a joke the whole lot of them ... from cricket SA to the management ... you should all be fired ... let Gary take over, select who he wants in terms of coaching and players and i guarantee the team will perform with pride and enjoyment ... to much money now and it is distroying the game we all love ... what a pity !!!!

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Tim, wrote

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01:14pm on 19 January 2012
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If tyhey molve him down the order thequick runs will dry upa she is toooo fat and he will run himself out - again creating pressure on the side

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Lionel, wrote

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01:04pm on 19 January 2012
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I have no problem keeping Smith in the team, as long as he is 12th man, then he can take as long as he likes trying to get back into form. Sometimes having to carry the water bottles brings one back down to earth and you find your form without having to go to the nets or crease. Biggest problem with Smith is mental, he has always thought he is bigger than the game. Been selected captain at such a young age went straight to his head.

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Cape Flets Monster, wrote

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12:37pm on 19 January 2012
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It's a pity the Selectors dont agree as everyones sentiments are to drop Smith. Bring in someone solid from the domestic arena. Others come in make a debut and a second match and given marking orders. My solution drop Smith FOREVER including Boucher and bring Herschelle back and give Alviro a period to settle in properly... Look at Hudson in the past he wasnt the Captain and he played Super crap but made the team religiously. He is still unrecognised to the Cricket world.Smith's done, to the Cricket Public that is.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:37pm on 19 January 2012
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Smiths days are over...time to pack his bags and go home...

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Greg Dolphin, wrote

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12:31pm on 19 January 2012
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i think it would be better if smith "would want to ask AB if he can bat for his franchise". international arena is not the place to fix broken confidence, before long this disease may spread to the rest of the team ie you will play anyway so dont worry about performing.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:30pm on 19 January 2012
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what is it with our selectors ... are you guys blind ??????? Smith should of been dropped yrs ago .. what has this dude got on you selectors that he is picked and captaining the Protea's ... dam !!!! any idiot can see he is useless .. cant even hold a freakin bat straight !!!! how many yrs do you need to get that right ?????? it's laughable and doesn't say much about the people selecting him all the time !!!

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shaun rungedoo, wrote

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12:13pm on 19 January 2012
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carlo please man you dont no what you talking about....when smith won us the series in aus did yourll speak about NO.....LEAVE THE MAN ALONE he will come rite no one is perfect and what ever any of you say smith will still be in the side cause he his a good player and ab needs him around....

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:53am on 19 January 2012
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I agree with Carlo - Smith must go. He has been given sufficient opportunity. There are guys in the domestic scene chomping at the bit. Give them a chance.

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Sylvia, wrote

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11:47am on 19 January 2012
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@Carol I quite agree with you, too many chances. Here is a good one for all you fans.Smith wife phones to speak to him and is told he has just gone out to bat. Well in that case I will hold on is the reply.

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carlo, wrote

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11:20am on 19 January 2012
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why is this idiot getting so many chances? i cant blv it when alviro petersen had a slupm he was dropped sent to play domestic cricket and came back witha bang why cnt smith do the same, why is he and his buddie s kallis and boucher so untouchable, oh i forgot gary has to stand up for his former teammates, smith u are a hasbeen leave now with dignity, at this stage u wnt even make my school 1st team,

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