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Smith faces fitness test for Test

"Graeme batted for 40 minutes in the nets, and he was encouraged by how much the injury had improved," SA media manager said.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 15:05 IST

South Africa captain Graeme Smith faces a fitness test ahead of the first Test against New Zealand in Centurion on Saturday.

Smith missed the third Test against Australia because of an injured left ring finger, and the same injury has put his participation in the first Test against the Black Caps in doubt.

"Graeme batted for 40 minutes in the nets on Thursday, and while he did feel some discomfort he was encouraged by how much the injury had improved," South African media manager Tshepo Tsotsotso told Reuters on Friday.

Tsotsotso said a decision on Smith would be made after he batted in the nets later on Friday.

South Africa want Smith back in harness as they look to bounce back from the 3-0 hiding in their home series against Australia.

New Zealand are on the up following success at home against the West Indies this season. The Kiwis won the test series 2-0 and the one-day rubber 4-1.

The teams' contrasting fortunes are reflected in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings, where New Zealand are fifth with South Africa sixth. South Africa are usually ranked higher than New Zealand.

FRESHER LEGS

New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond said the visitors could prove the fresher team.

"Our two major worries coming here so late in the summer were firstly, would the team be in one piece, and secondly how tired we would be," Bond told a news conference.

"But after the West Indies series we're actually feeling very fresh, we feel pretty good.

"We've played probably half as much test cricket as South Africa, with breaks in between, and we're here with our full team.

"A lot has been said about how tired South Africa are and how they need time off."

Bond said the 4-0 defeat South Africa dealt New Zealand in the one-day series in October and November would have no bearing.

"The one-dayers were so long ago, we've forgotten about that loss," Bond said. "South Africa are the ones who have something to turn around from."

Bond was confident the knee injury that limited his participation in a drawn tour match against a Rest of South Africa XI in Benoni at the weekend would not hamper his role as the spearhead of the attack.

"It's been a long summer at home and if the knee is at all niggly there's no point in using it all up in the warm-ups to the tests," Bond said.

South African allrounders Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis as well as New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming will reach 100 caps in the first test.

They will join just 38 other players who have appeared in 100 tests.

MILESTONE

Fleming will become the first New Zealander to reach the milestone, while Gary Kirsten is currently the only South African in three figures with 101 caps.

"When you start your Test career you aim for a decent run, but I've been lucky not to have too many injuries and not too many troughs," Pollock told a news conference.

"It's not often you get three players all playing their 100th test together.

"Only 30-odd have played a hundred Tests, so it's something special."

"Stephen Fleming has been a great servant of New Zealand cricket and Jacques myself have put our time in, too, for South Africa."

The start time off all three Tests has been adjusted to allow for the encroaching winter.