Prince backs Smith to come good
"Its not going to be this easy next Thursday, Dale!" chided a spectator with a digicam as Dale Steyn walked by with his training kit. "Hah," was the fast bowler's reply. "It may just be easier." Ashwell Prince wasn't as forthcoming of his assessment of the South Africans' dominant position at the end of day one against Middlesex at Uxbridge - and of their easy adjustment to England so far - but it was hard not to see the confidence of the touring team. South Africa are buoyant with less than a week before the first Test at Lord's, make no mistake, despite the fact that their captain is the only one without any real form going into the first of four games this summer.
"We're confident heading to Lord's next week, because most of the top order has got runs so far," said Prince, whose unbeaten 104 was a crucial role in the South Africans' total of 339 for 4 on another day of flat-track domination. "We've played well there before and we're confident it will come together again.You need to grab whatever opportunity presents itself and Hashim [Amla] and myself did that today."
That they did. Both batsmen smoothed over the cracks created by the double loss of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis just after lunch, and their 190-run partnership was a South African touring record against Middlesex.
Prince said he didn't have major issues with the track - evident by the manner in which he fluently clipped the spinners and pushed the quicker bowlers into the off-side gaps. "It seemed like it was going around a bit early on with the new ball," said Prince."But it's quite a good pitch, and in the afternoon it was a little bit easier - and we took advantage."
South Africa have won their last three Tests at Lord's and Smith would have fond memories of batting there - his 259 set up an innings-and-92-run win in 2003. Smith's first innings of the tour - he didn't play in Taunton as he was recovering from a torn hamstring - was a plucky 35, but even if it his only one before Lord's Prince felt it was satisfactory. "He [Smith] batted for more than two hours out there, and the ball did go around a little bit this morning," he 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."
The only cricket Smith has played recent times has been in the Indian Premier League, and Prince felt it was understandable that he wasn't off the blocks immediately. "He conscientiously took his time ... He probably could have been a bit more aggressive," he said. "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."
Smith may not be in the runs yet, but the rest of the South African outfit has cashed in on their pre-Test practice.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo