Scotland v South Africa, Group A, St Kitts March 19, 2007

Scotland look to avoid minnow bashing



Ryan Watson will renew old ties with his counterpart Graeme Smith © Ian Jacobs / Cricinfo Ltd

The phony war in St Kitts is ever so nearly at an end. One last mismatch presents itself tomorrow, when the high-flying South Africans take on the undaunting Scots, and then it will be time to focus on the real business end of this group - next Saturday's seismic clash between South Africa and Australia.

For Graeme Smith, however, tomorrow's fixture contains an unexpected blast from the past. The leader of the world's No.1-ranked side is about to go head-to-head with his former club captain. Ryan Watson, Scotland's stand-in skipper, was a contemporary of Smith's during his school-days at King Edward's in Johannesburg, and Smith admitted it would be a surreal feeling when the pair walk out together for the toss.

"When we were at school together Ryan was a few years ahead of me," said Smith. "It will be weird to walk out on the pitch and spin a coin with a South African. We've been teasing him quite a bit since Montego Bay, because there are quite a few guys who do know him. He's a really good man, so I guess part of you wants him to do well - but then there is a big part that doesn't."

"Believe it or not, [Smith] used to fetch drinks for me and carry my bags," said Watson. "I don't know if he'll do that tomorrow, but I'll ask him. At school, he was limited in terms of his strokeplay, he's progressed a long way with that. Mentally he was far better than anyone I saw as a young kid.

"He used to enjoy making big hundreds as a schoolboy, which is unusual when other guys are making 50 or 60. He got hundreds as a 15-year-old against Premier League attacks, so everyone knew he was going to be a special player and he's proved that."

Watson was under no illusions about the task his side faces tomorrow - a task made all the more onerous by the shock victories of the past week. "They're a quality side and they're not going to be complacent against the minor sides," he said. "We were poor at the death against Australia, by our own standards, and that's something we've worked on. That's a crucial part of the game and they've got some really clean strikers, so we'll have to make sure we get it right at the end."

"The upsets earlier in the week in the other groups have kept everyone on their toes," added Smith. "It just shows that if you're not up for it and don't perform to your levels you can put yourself under pressure. We certainly will be on our toes - and the way we performed against Holland is the way we want to perform tomorrow."

Inevitably though, Smith had more than half an eye on next week's battle. "On everyone's minds is the Australia game," he admitted. "That is the big one everyone is looking forward to. I think both teams have their fair share of strong hitters, but I think our length and power in our batting line-up is one of our strengths. We have a good variety in our bowling attack, which has been brilliant over the last few years."

South Africa are expected to welcome Makhaya Ntini back into the fold for tomorrow's game, after he missed the opening fixture to attend the birth of his first daughter. "He is huge variation for us," said Smith, "and Andrew Hall over the last two years has been the best 'death' bowler in world cricket. We have options; we're very strong in the bowling department. I'm pretty comfortable with our attack."

Scotland, for their part, are expected to introduce the South African-born seamer Dewald Nel to replace their captain, Craig Wright, who has flown home to attend the funeral of his aunt. There may also be a recall for the middle-order batsman, Neil McCallum, who has become something of a cult figure among the vocal Scottish fans in Basseterre.

South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 AB de Villiers, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Herschelle Gibbs, 5 Mark Boucher (wk), 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Justin Kemp, 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Andrew Hall, 10 Makhaya Ntini, 11 Andre Nel

Scotland (probable) 1 Fraser Watts, 2 Majid Haq, 3 Ryan Watson (capt), 4 Neil McCallum, 5 Gavin Hamilton, 6 Dougie Brown, 7 Colin Smith (wk), 8 Glenn Rogers, 9 Dewald Nel, 10 Paul Hoffman, 11 John Blain

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

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