Thursday, November 12, 2009

Smith intrigued by Strauss absence

Graeme Smith has stopped short of calling England a weaker team without Andrew Strauss in the line-up for two T20 internationals.

Strauss no longer plays cricket's shortest format at the highest level meaning he is on a one-week break during his country's two-and-a-half-month tour to South Africa.

Paul Collingwood is set to lead the team at the Wanderers and then Centurion on Sunday and with both sides looking to land the first blow, the Proteas skipper is keen to see how the visitors cope without their main opener.

"He must have his own reasons," Smith said. "Looking at it from a team's perspective, he's obviously playing well and scoring runs.

"He started the tour games and has gone well in the warm-up games. He's a new captain and I guess he'd want to stamp his mark and sort of get his personality on the environment.

"So him stepping away for a week, I don't know. One thing it does do is it probably keeps him fresh throughout the tour.

"It's something I guess the England team will have to cope with. It's an interesting dynamic and I don't know how it's going to affect them."

Strauss and Smith were of course the focal point in the two sides' last meeting during the Champions Trophy in September when the former denied the latter a runner.
At that stage Smith was suffering from cramp and was out shortly afterwards as England claimed their fifth win in six matches against South Africa - the other game being a no result - to increase their recent stronghold over their rivals.

Smith continued: "My view on him's never been aggressive in any way. I've said that he's slightly different to the Andrew Strauss we've played against over various tours.

"I think he's trying to be a lot more up front and I obviously captaincy does push you to the front of the team.

"I think he's trying to be a lot tougher, a lot more up front in the way he's handling himself. So it will be interesting to see how he goes on this tour."
And reflecting on that poor recent record, Smith is determined to set the record straight.

He added: "It's massive motivation for us, the fact that they've performed well against us and hold the upper hand recently in the shorter format of the game.
"We've trained hard and very focussed on this weekend's games. We want to perform well and I'm just excited about the opportunity.

"It's fantastic to have England here and it's time to get going now."

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