Smith will come good says Prince

Published: Saturday, July 5, 2008, 2:37 [IST]
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Ashwell Prince told South Africa cricket fans not to worry about the form of Graeme Smith after the Proteas captain's first, and possibly only, innings before next week's first Test against England saw him make just 35 against Middlesex here Friday.

This was the left-handed opener's first match since tearing his hamstring in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and it looked like he was consciously trying to settle in for a long stay as he took more than two hours over his runs.

Smith contributed just 29 to a second-wicket stand of 106 with Hashim Amla after the early loss of Neil McKenzie before being caught behind shortly after lunch off pace bowler Alan Richardson.

Amla, by contrast, made 161 to follow his 172 against Somerset in the tour opener at Taunton while Prince was unbeaten on 104 as South Africa finished the first day of three at Uxbridge on 339 for four.

Smith's 77-ball stay featured just the four boundaries but fellow left-hander Prince said his captain's time in the middle couldn't be quantified by statistics alone.

"He batted for more than two hours out there, and the ball did go around a little bit this morning," Prince said.

"He hasn't batted for a while. But those two hours - and some more in the second innings, we hope - I'm sure that will be enough time in terms of preparation for the Test.

"It's much better to get time in the middle than in the nets - and I'm sure he'd like to have another go in the second innings."

And Prince said Smith's tempo was all the more understandable given the need to adjust from the frenetic pace of Twenty20.

"He conscientiously took his time," Prince admitted. "He probably could have been a bit more aggressive.

"But I think he probably opted to play the way he did, because he hasn't had much time in the middle - and the last time he was batting it was in Twenty20.

"He wanted time at the crease and to get used to playing cricket with a red ball, the IPL being the last time he batted."

No 3 Amla, whom South Africa will hope is not one of those batsmen who makes big scores in tour matches only to come up short when it really matters in the Tests, made a scratchy start.

But he ultimately took advantage of the benign batting conditions, with 12 fours alone in his first fifty.

His century took Amla just 119 balls and saw him strike three sixes off one over from on-loan Yorkshire leg-spinner Mark Lawson.

After Jacques Kallis was caught behind for two, Prince came in and the left-hander looked in fine touch while making a 167-ball hundred in a stand of 190.

Amla, whose innings featured several wristy deflections, eventually fell to a tired drive off Danny Evans which gave wicket-keeper Ben Scott his third catch of the innings.

In all he batted for just over five hours, facing 233 balls with three sixes and 22 fours.

England and South Africa play the first of a four-Test series at Lord's, starting on Thursday.

In the corresponding Test five years ago, Smith made 259 at the 'home of cricket' and fast bowler Makhaya Ntini took 10 for 220 as South Africa won by the large margin of an innings and 92 runs.

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