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September 21, 2006
South Africa's Mark Boucher-led run riot against Zimbabwe at Potchefstroom yesterday has left Graeme Smith, a spectator in the crowd, very impressed. Smith has been out of action since injuring his ankle in July, but looked forward to returning to captain an aggressive South Africa in next month's Champions Trophy in India.
"It's fantastic to see how the guys played," Smith told the website SuperSport.com after South Africa racked up 418 for five, their second total in excess of 400 this year. "It was nice to see them push themselves. In years gone by we would have been happy with 320, but we need to take ourselves to new levels. We're looking to be more aggressive up front in the conditions we're going to be playing in when we get to the ICC Champions Trophy in India next month. Hitting out at the death is not as easy there as it is in South Africa."
As for his rehabilitation from the ankle injury, Smith was positive that not being hurried back into the game was the correct approach. "We've decided to take things a little slower and not risk the ankle," he said. "Rather than pushing it here and maybe setting myself back for a couple of days, I'd rather be 100% for India. I've started batting again and running around, which feels good after sitting on my backside for six weeks."
"Obviously the injury was very frustrating, but it was also a blessing in disguise," he added. "It gave me the chance to get into a good space, a good frame of mind. More than anything else, it's the mental side of captaincy that causes strain.Add that to your own batting, especially if you're batting up front, and you can see how important it is to be fresh. It's a big year, and my brain needs to be ready for it."
Boucher, whose 68-ball unbeaten 147 was the second fastest hundred in one-day history, was just glad to reach the three-figure mark for the first time. "I've been striking the ball a lot better than in the past, and it's a matter of just getting the runs behind your name," he told reporters. "Hopefully, I can build on this."
Boucher also made light of the six times he was dropped by Zimbabwe's fielders: "It was one of those days where whatever you swing at hits the middle of the bat and whatever is in the air and goes to hand goes down. The boys in the dressing room said I used up all my luck for the season."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Why the Indian opener would be well advised to shelve the hook and pull in Australia