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Smith buries records with marathon 277

Birmingham, July 26 (Reuters): Graeme Smith made 277 out of South Africa’s total of 594 for five declared in the first Test on Saturday, leaving England captain Nasser Hussain chewing on a record-sized slice of humble pie.

England, in reply, reached tea on the third day on 25 without loss at tea, with Marcus Trescothick batting at the top of the order despite a fractured right index finger.

The hosts never got back to the crease as the rain that washed out the whole of Friday’s play returned to Edgbaston.

Hussain had suggested on the eve of the five-match series that the South Africans were “ripe for the taking”.

He also said he had not done any homework on Smith, suggesting the less he knew about the touring side’s captain the better.

Hussain and a packed crowd had learnt plenty about the 22-year-old by 2.22 p.m. local time as he trudged back to the pavilion after his nine-hour innings ended in James Anderson’s hands at deep mid-wicket.

By then, the imposing left-hander, in only his 10th Test, his third in charge and in his first appearance against England, had cut a swathe through the record books. He had begun with a 338-run stand with Herschelle Gibbs on Thursday, the highest opening Test partnership recorded against England and the sixth best of all time.

On Saturday, resuming on 178 with the touring side on 398 for one, he forged relentlessly on.

First it was a personal best — beating the 200 he made in his third Test against Bangladesh — then it was the highest score by a South African captain, then a new record for any South African in England.

When he guided quick bowler Steve Harmison to third man for a single in the afternoon session, he passed the South African all-time Test mark of 275 shared by Daryll Cullinan and Gary Kirsten.

Two minutes later, he heaved wearily at Ashley Giles’ left-arm spin and departed to thunderous applause.

Smith now averages 65 in 15 innings. He favours the cut, the flick off the hip and a bottom-handed drive threaded through mid-on.

His three best scores in Tests — 151, 200 and 277 — also suggest he lacks little in mental strength or application.

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