Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Smith ready to take on latest England captain


South Africa captain Graeme Smith, having seen off one England Test skipper in Nasser Hussain, is now plotting to unsettle the Essex batsman's successor Michael Vaughan.

Hussain, 35, resigned his post on Monday after the drawn first Test of the five-match series at Edgbaston.

He had set himself up for a fall by saying in the build-up that South Africa were "ripe for the taking."

Left-hander Smith's response was to score a national record 277 in a total of 594 for five declared -- South Africa's best Test score against England.

His innings ensured that South Africa were on top throughout as England hung on for a draw.

Not that Smith, at 22 South Africa's youngest-ever captain, was getting carried away.

"Probably we have the psychological advantage, though I don't like talking about it too much, it can come back and bite you," the Western Province batsman explained.

Smith won a good toss on a placid Edgbaston pitch that favoured batsmen and dented the hopes of fast bowlers.

But he and opening partner Herschelle Gibbs (179) made the most of it. And unlike England, Smith could always call on his immediate predecessor Shaun Pollock to give him some much needed control in the field.

New-ball spearhead Pollock took just two wickets in the match but was a constant threat to England's batsmen with his accuracy and Smith said: "Shaun Pollock bowled superbly. People said he had lost pace and passion but I think he was the best bowler in the match. All he needs now is a bit of luck and a few edges."

Hussain's resignation obscured the fact that England struggled to avoid the follow-on, new Test captain Michael Vaughan's impressive 156 notwithstanding.

Meanwhile their bowlers only took nine wickets in the match against a South African team that was without Jacques Kallis, the Proteas' star batsman, who will remain in Cape Town and miss the second Test as well after the death of his father Henry from lung cancer.

Vaughan, who became England's one-day captain after Hussain quit limited overs internationals following the side's first-round exit at the World Cup, has been much praised for his "relaxed" style of leadership.

But all successful Test captains have had a touch of Hussain's self-confessed "backside kicking" approach about them.

They have also had bowlers capable of dismissing sides twice which no captain, however gifted or inspiring, can afford to be without for long.

Vaughan, Test cricket's leading run-scorer last year, is currently the best player in a side which, for Lord's at least, still features Hussain.

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