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April 2, 2009
Graeme Smith must have nightmares about facing Mitchell Johnson after the fast bowler broke both of Smith's hands in separate incidents over the past three months. Friday's first ODI in Durban will provide Johnson with another chance to bowl to Smith, who has been passed fit for the five-match series.
It will be Smith's first game since a rising delivery from Johnson struck him on the right hand in the Test at the same venue. Johnson said he was keen to get stuck into the South African captain once more on a bouncy Kingsmead pitch.
"I'm look forward to the challenge again," Johnson told SAPA. "It's always good to get the opportunity to bowl with the new ball against an opening batsman like Smith. He's such a great player. He's a strong leader and his team look up to him. They will enjoy having him back in the squad and I'm looking forward to trying to get his wicket."
Smith will take over the reins from Johan Botha, who led South Africa to a 2-0 victory in the Twenty20 internationals. It could be a challenge lifting his side for the final leg of what has essentially been a four-month campaign against Australia but South Africa's coach Mickey Arthur was confident the squad would be able to hit top gear.
"We've prioritised what we want to get out of the series, and there's a nice air around the squad," Arthur said. "The guys are very fresh and looking forward to it. We're getting a nice balance now. I'm very happy with the mix we have now.
"Within our squad, we have two recognised spinners, and we have JP Duminy, who can bowl for us as well, so we're starting to get quite a nice mix in terms of variation in our attack. And the return of Makhaya [Ntini] and Morne [Morkel] in our attack is really good because they give us variation of a different kind."
The return to the 50-over format, in which South Africa triumphed 4-1 in Australia, will be a change after the Twenty20 games. Arthur said it was pleasing to have had such success in the shortest format but it would be dangerous to assume the momentum would carry through to the ODIs.
"It's always good to be in a dressing room that's winning - it's a good place to be - but we're not looking too much to that," he said. "Friday is where we want to put our marker in the sand, and that's why we've been building up hard this week. Friday, for us, is huge. We want to go one-nil up, and hopefully take momentum from that. So, yes, nice to win the Pro20s, but it's a different beast."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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