Smith hails team spirit

Updated on Aug 25, 2003 09:01 PM IST

Graeme Smith praised his team's "tremendous character" after they thrashed England by 191 runs in the fourth Test at Headingley.

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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, Leeds

South Africa captain Graeme Smith praised his team's "tremendous character" after they thrashed England by 191 runs in the fourth Test at Headingley here Monday.

The result gave South Africa an unbeatable 2-1 series lead ahead of next month's fifth and final Test at The Oval.

But such a commanding victory, which left the tourists on the brink of their first series win in England since 1965, looked unlikely when the Proteas collapsed to 21 for four in their first innings.

"I'm extremely delighted," Smith - at 22 South Africa's youngest ever captain - told reporters after his team bounced back from their 70-run third Test defeat at Trent Bridge.

"After being 21 for four, I said to Gary (Kirsten) when they (England) were nine down, 'did you think we would be in this position?'.

"But the boys showed tremendous character and stepped up to the plate."

Man-of-the-match Kirsten batted for over 11 hours in the game, making key scores of 130 and 60 as South Africa twice made totals over 300 on a difficult pitch for batsmen.

Kirsten, South Africa's most-capped player, now in his 92nd Test, was a member of the team that lost a Test series against England at Headingley in 1998 and said: " '98 was a long time ago. Sitting in the dressing hoom having lost the series was a particularly depressing moment.

"So coming back to this ground putting in a performance like we have, coming back to the changing room celebrating, rather than sulking is personally very gratifying."

England had been going well in their first innings at 164 for one with Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher taking 54 off the Proteas in the 9.5 overs possible after tea before they accepted an offer of bad light on Friday.

South Africa regrouped and England, who had been 169 for one were bowled out for 307.

"It helped us," Smith said. "We weren't bowling the right lengths. But after that we got the two key strikes of Butcher and Trescothick."

And Kirsten added that his Western Province team-mate Smith had made his feelings known in no uncertain terms. "He gets aggressive and that's important.

"Sometimes you can be going through the motions in a five-day Test. Graeme's done an outstanding job in making sure the guys refocus every session."

South Africa's victory was all the more impressive as they were without star bowler Shaun Pollock who had returned home to Durban to witness the birth of his daughter.

But in his absence pace bowling all-rounder Jacques Kallis took a Test best six for 54 as England were bowled out for 209 in their second innings, losing their last five wickets Monday for just 44 runs in 70 balls.

"Jacques bowled superbly. We needed someone to stand up and be counted. I couldn't get the ball out of his hand."

Meanwhile England captain Michael Vaughan cited a lack of "ruthlessness" as the reason for his side's defeat when, after reducing South Africa to 142 for seven, they saw the last three wickets add 200 runs.

"To have them 142 for seven, that stand between Monde Zondeki and Kirsten (the pair put on 150 for the eighth wicket) won them the game.

"There were situations in the game when we were on top when we should have been more ruthless. South Africa were more disciplined."

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