/ 7 May 2010

Smith confident as SA prepare for England

South Africa captain Graeme Smith was in a bullish mood ahead of his side’s World Twenty20 Super Eights clash against England here on Saturday.

Both teams will return to the Kensington Oval this weekend on the back of convincing wins on the first day’s play in the second round here on Thursday, with South Africa beating New Zealand by 13 runs and England defeating defending champions Pakistan by six wickets.

It was just over a week ago that England beat South Africa by five wickets in a warm-up match in Barbados but Smith believes his Proteas are now starting to come into full bloom.

“Every game in this competition is now crucial,” Smith said.

“They [England] will have confidence but we faced them in a warm-up game so we have a pretty good idea how we’d like to play against them.

“If we can improve five or ten percent, then we will push England hard.”

South Africa effectively batted New Zealand out of the game by making a challenging total of 170 for four that owed much to a rapid 40 from the big-hitting Albie Morkel who struck five sixes in just 18 balls faced.

The Proteas have been tinkering with their top order in the Caribbean but against New Zealand appeared to have hit on a winning formula, Smith opening alongside Jacques Kallis ahead of the recalled Herschelle Gibbs at number three.

AB de Villiers came in at second wicket down against New Zealand and made a valuable 47 not out, sharing a stand of 72 in six overs with number five Morkel as they moved the innings up a gear after a solid start by the top order.

“We’ve been searching for the right combination and we certainly started a little rusty in this tournament,” Smith admitted.

“The platform was there for Albie, the guys up front had done a really good job setting up the game. It was nice to back him and to see him play a knock like that was terrific.”

Morkel’s reputation as a big-hitter has tended to disguise his lack of significant scores for his country, albeit the 28-year-old has enjoyed success in the Twenty20 Indian Premier League with the Chennai Super Kings.

However, since making his Test debut against Australia at Cape Town in March 2009 his form has dipped so much that Morkel has not even been selected for the one-day leg of South Africa’s tour of the West Indies tour which follows the World Twenty20.

Morkel’s lone Test appearance did see him make a fifty and he also scored a half century against a modest Zimbabwe attack but Thursday’s innings was his second best in all international formats in 15 months.

“It was nice to perform for your country and I was pleased to come in and play an innings under pressure during a World Cup,” Morkel said.

“But I’ve never really felt out of form the whole season so it’s just been about trying to get a start and once you get a performance you hope for a rolling effect so hopefully this can carry on.” – AFP