Proteas captain Graeme Smith is likely to return to action in the second MTN one-day international (ODI) against Bangladesh at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday.
A painful tennis elbow has sidelined Smith since August, after the fourth Test against England. It is thought that the condition was exacerbated by his epic series-winning innings in the third test at Edgbaston in Birmingham, when he scored a mammoth 154 not out to secure a five wicket win for South Africa.
“If it had been left up to him, he would have played today,” said ODI vice-captain Johan Botha after South Africa’s 61 run victory over Bangladesh in the first ODI in Potchefstroom on Friday night. “Shane (Jabaar, team physiotherapist) held him back, but he was really keen to play. It’s 99 per cent certain he will play on Sunday.”
Botha said he would be sad to hand over the reins, after leading South Africa to victory in the Standard Bank Pro20 match at the Wanderers on Wednesday as well two ODIs against Kenya and the first ODI against Bangladesh. “I’ve really enjoyed the challenge (of captaincy),” he said. “Obviously, we weren’t playing the strongest teams, so that made it easier, but I still enjoyed it.”
The Proteas victories against Bangladesh were less than convincing, with Bangladesh getting into strong positions in both matches. Botha said this could be a combination of Bangladesh getting better as a team, and the fact that South Africa was in a period of transition, after losing a number of senior players. “Our bowling attack is very young at the moment but the guys are working hard and I’m sure we’ll put it right. Bangladesh played well in that middle period. The captain and Shakib al Hasan played really nicely and they put us under pressure and then the second new ball did the trick for us,” said Botha. Dale Steyn, who was the hero of South Africa’s victory, taking four wickets for just 16 runs, has also just returned to action after being laid low by sinusitis, which kept him confined to bed for nearly a month. He said he thought this could have been a blessing in disguise, because he was feeling better than he had for a long time.
“Every time I wanted to get back on my feet and get running, the doc was on the phone saying just chill, relax. When I got over all these headaches it just felt like I had so much energy. I feel like a new man. Four weeks of laying on your back is not friendly. When you do get back on your feet you feel really alive,” said Steyn.
He said he was still bowling well within himself, and was not yet at full pace. “You’ve got to judge when you want to be at your peak,” he said. “With all respect to Bangladesh you don’t want to be peaking at 150 or whatever against them, you want to be using it against the top playing nations like Australia or your World Cups. You want to be like these Olympic athletes who train for four years for one race. If you can do well, hit your areas and work on all the other aspects of your game and then be physically at your peak for the bigger teams that’s what you really want.” The second ODI starts at 10am on Sunday.