| Graeme Smith hopes to build a team that gives away nothing
London: South African captain Graeme Smith said his new-look side owed their fans an improved performance during the one-day tri-series in England starting on Thursday.
Earlier this year, South Africa had failed to make the knockout stages of the World Cup, one of the shock outcomes of the tournament.
“When we went out so early the country took it badly,” Smith admitted on Tuesday ahead of the series, also featuring Zimbabwe.
“We realise we owe the South African public something big,” added Smith, 22, who only came into the Proteas’ World Cup squad after an injury to Jonty Rhodes.
Following the World Cup debacle left-hand batsman Smith leapt from stand-in to skipper, replacing all-rounder Shaun Pollock.
But while Pollock remains a key member of the side, other stars have departed the scene.
Fielding maestro Rhodes, now playing County cricket for Gloucestershire, and fast bowler Allan Donald have both retired from international cricket.
Controversially, Lance Klusener, 31, was left out of the squads for both the triangular tournament and the subsequent five-Test series in England, even though the all-rounder was available.
Much will depend on the performances of Pollock and new- ball partner Makhaya Ntini.
There was a huge gap in class between the pair and the rest of the South Africa quicks at the World Cup where spinner Nicky Boje was repeatedly targeted.
Smith, sounding like an old-fashioned English County professional, said Pollock-like discipline represented South Africa’s best way back to bowling respectability.
“We want to become a really tight unit that gives nothing away, that builds extreme pressure with dot ball after dot ball.”
But in order to help build that pressure the batsmen will have to give the bowlers defensible targets and runs will be expected from the gifted Herschelle Gibbs as well as Smith himself.
England, like South Africa in a post-World Cup rebuilding phase, go into the series boosted by a 2-1 one-day triumph against Pakistan which concluded Sunday.
Under new one-day skipper Michael Vaughan, England are a rejuvenated fielding outfit, with fast bowler James Anderson the jewel in the crown of an improving attack.
But doubts remain about the solidity of their batting.
Vaughan said on Tuesday that “South Africa are the second- best one-day team in the world,” a remark unlikely to either deflate home hopes of victory or soften up Smith’s men.
Although Zimbabwe had the best World Cup of any of the triangular sides, reaching the Super Six phase, they have had a miserable tour of England so far.
Zimbabwe, minus leading batsman Andy Flower, were thrashed by an innings in both Tests and also suffered an embarrassing one-day defeat against Ireland.
But in allrounders Andy Blignaut and Sean Ervine, Zimbabwe do have potential one-day match-winners.
England and Zimbabwe get the series underway at Trent Bridge on Thursday with South Africa entering, against England, at The Oval on Saturday.
June 26: England vs Zimbabwe, Trent Bridge; June 28: England vs South Africa, The Oval; June 29: Zimbabwe vs South Africa, Canterbury; July 1: England vs Zimbabwe, Headingley; July 3: England vs South Africa, Old Trafford (day-night); July 5: Zimbabwe vs South Africa, Cardiff; July 6: England vs Zimbabwe, Bristol; July 8: England vs South Africa, Edgbaston (day-night); July 10: Zimbabwe vs South Africa, Rose Bowl; July 12: Final, Lord’s.