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Coach Simons stands by Smith

South Africa coach Eric Simons said that Graeme Smith's increased composure had been a big factor in his side's march to the triangular series final.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, Birmingham
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2003 11:53 AM IST

South Africa coach Eric Simons said here Monday that captain Graeme Smith's increased composure had been a big factor in his side's march to the triangular series final.

Smith, at 22 South Africa's youngest ever captain, was involved in an on-field confrontation with former skipper Shaun Pollock just before the World Cup.

Batting for Western Province in a World Cup warm-up match against South Africa, Smith was given out only for the left-hander to tell the umpires he was not out as the Proteas had ignored fielding restrictions, making the delivery a no-ball.

An on-field row with Pollock ensued before Smith finally accepted the decision. He was later called up into the World Cup squad following Jonty Rhodes' injury.

But Simons said of Smith: "I think he took big strides in Bangladesh (where South Africa toured before arriving in England).
"The things he's doing in the field, the way he's digested information, he's remained a lot calmer," Simons told reporters here at Edgbaston.

"A lot of captaincy is about being calm in the crisis and we've certainly seen that on this trip. Obviously if the team is winning it makes things a lot easier. But the guys have gelled together off field."

South Africa will face hosts England in Saturday's Lord's final after both teams beat Zimbabwe last weekend.

But before then Simons' men must play England at Edgbaston in a day/night match on Tuesday and Zimbabwe at Hampshire's Rose Bowl ground on Thursday.

And Simons insisted there would be no let-up by his side after they beat England by seven wickets at Old Trafford on Thursday, having lost their opening match of the tournament against them by six wickets at The Oval on June 28.

"The guys are very hungry for success. We want to maintain our momentum. If we can have another good win against them (England) it will obviously put a lot of pressure on them in terms of how they play against us."

He added: "You never want a situation when you walk on field to play for your country, regardless of what's at stake, and not feel it's a game you must win."

South Africa's bowlers were subjected to a blistering assault at The Oval by England openers Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki, who both made hundreds.

Simons admitted that the bowling had been a concern but said that the way his attack had improved throughout the tournament had pleased him.

"I was a little bit concerned about our bowling. I felt we weren't bowling in right areas during the warm-up games and it showed when we came up against a class pair like Solanki and Trescothick.

"It'd been good to see the guys hitting the areas we discussed. That's been our biggest improvement."

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