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Smith fit as SA push for series win

Graeme Smith will return from injury to lead his team in the third Test against West Indies.

india Updated: Jan 02, 2004 13:51 IST

South African captain Graeme Smith passed a fitness test on Thursday and will return from injury to lead his team in the third of four Tests against the touring West Indies at Newlands Stadium.

The South Africans scored crushing victories in the first two Tests — winning by 189 runs in Johannesburg, and by an innings and 65 runs in Durban — to secure an unassailable series lead.

Injury-stricken West Indies looked likely to welcome back opening batsman Chris Gayle, who injured his hamstring in the first Test, for the match starting Friday.

"Chris Gayle will almost certainly play tomorrow," West Indies captain Brian Lara said at a news conference. "It will be good to have his batting, but it will also be as important to have him in the slips."

Gayle took part in Thursday's practice session. While batting well in the nets, it was clear he was not yet fully recovered. Still, West Indies may have to gamble with players who are not 100 percent fit to avoid a repeat of the 1998-99 whitewash they suffered against South Africa.

The strategy has already cost them with Corey Collymore, who has a hamstring problem.

"If we had rested him in Johannesburg, we might have had his services in Durban and here," Lara said.

Lara also has to contend with middle order batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul's groin injury.

While he scored a gritty face-saving century batting with a runner in the final Durban innings, he won't be able to start the Cape Town Test if he doesn't pass a late fitness test.

Lara conceded his team had been batted out of the first two Tests, but said they had to put the past behind them.

"We have to put the past behind us," Lara said. "We have to view the situation as if we are about to start a two-Test series against South Africa, and we want to come out of that one on top."

The South Africans, meanwhile, are acutely aware of the dangers of complacency.

"We have to play with a knife to our own throats," said Smith, who missed the end of the second Test to treat a hamstring injury. "The guys don't need reminding that the West Indies players are hurt, and that's when they can get up and bite you."

Both captains believe the Newlands pitch will be a good one, providing some help for spinners as the Test moves toward its closing phases.

"Spinning is definitely an option," Lara said, hinting that Dave Mohammed — a late replacement for injured Omari Banks — might make his Test debut.

Paul Adams looks likely to get his chance for the South Africans, "and he must use the opportunity," Smith said.

Adams, coming in for all-rounder Andrew Hall, is the only change expected in the victorious South African lineup.

Jacques Kallis' troublesome hamstring has healed; Gary Kirsten's bruised ribs are unlikely to stop him from playing, and neither are fast bowler Andre Nel's right knee and sore toes.

"We play to win," said Smith, "and winning the series is the main target."

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Rudolph, Jacques Kallis, Gary Kirsten, Martin van Jaarsveld, Neil McKenzie, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Paul Adams, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel.

West Indies (from): Brian Lara (captain), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Daren Ganga, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Smith, Ridley Jacobs, Carlton Baugh, Vasbert Drakes, Mervyn Dillon, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Adam Sanford, Dave Mohammed, Corey Collymore.

Umpires: Srinivas Venkataraghavan, India, and Daryl Harper, Australia.

TV umpire: Ian Howell, South Africa.

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle, Sri Lanka.

First Published: Jan 01, 2004 21:04 IST