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Smith leads South African onslaught

Graeme Smith made an imposing century as his team took control on the first day of the first Test against the West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 04:23 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

South African captain Graeme Smith made an imposing century as his team took control on the first day of the first Test against the West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium Friday.

Smith, at 22 the youngest Test captain in the world, hit 132 as South Africa reached 368 for three at the close.

Jacques Kallis (87 not out) and Martin van Jaarsveld (69 not out) built on the foundation laid by Smith with an unbeaten fourth wicket stand of 128 in 131 minutes before the close.

Smith could hardly have made a better start to a four-match series which has been billed as a clash between himself and fellow left-hander and rival captain Brian Lara.

His century ended a mini-slump. Smith had made only one half-century in 10 Test innings since hitting two double centuries in successive matches against England earlier this year.

"It's a fantastic way to start a series, both as an individual and as captain," he said.

It was an unhappy day for the West Indies, however, with their seam-based attack struggling on a good batting pitch on a hot, cloudless day after Smith won the toss.

The tourists, who have already lost three players to injury, suffered another setback when opening batsman Chris Gayle damaged his right hamstring while chasing a ball in the outfield.

Gayle, whose off-spinners would have provided the main variation after the West Indies opted to pick four pace bowlers, did not return to the field and after receiving ice treatment at the ground went to hospital for a scan.

The West Indies management said later that he would be unable to field for the remainder of the tour but would bat with a runner.

Smith paid tribute to opening partner, Herschelle Gibbs, who made 60 in a first wicket stand of 149, the first century opening partnership in Tests between South Africa and the West Indies.

"Herschelle and I are working really well together. There's lots of talking between us."

The South Africans went into the Test after almost a month during which they have played only domestic one-day cricket but Smith said it had not been difficult to adjust.

He said mental preparation was the key.

"Everyone had to bring notes to our first net practice. Mine was that I needed more discipline in leaving the ball and I had to work hard on playing the short ball."

Smith set the tone for the day when he cracked the second ball from Fidel Edwards to the midwicket boundary. He went to his 50 off 76 balls with nine fours and his century off 147 balls with 17 boundaries.

He had his only life on 110 when he turned the last ball before tea from part-time spinner Ramnaresh Sarwan to leg slip, where Lara dived and juggled a difficult chance.

Smith was disappointed when he slashed at a wide ball from Edwards and was caught by Lara at slip after a 184-ball innings which included 22 fours.

It was the lowest of Smith's five Test centuries in 18 matches. He has made three double centuries and scored 151 against Pakistan in Cape Town last season.

The century was particularly satisfying for Smith, who was a schoolboy cheering from the grass banks when the West Indies last played in a Test at the Wanderers five seasons ago.

Despite being a schoolboy prodigy at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg, Smith was not offered a contract to play provincial cricket at the Wanderers for Gauteng and instead signed for Western Province, based in Cape Town.

Gibbs made 60 off 103 balls before he was bowled between bat and pad as he pushed forward defensively against Corey Collymore. When a replay was shown on the big screen, spectators booed Australian umpire Darrell Hair because Collymore had overstepped the bowling crease and should have been no-balled.

Jacques Rudolph, who passed a fitness test on a sore back before the start of play, made only two before edging Vasbert Drakes to Lara at first slip.

Van Jaarsveld, playing in place of Gary Kirsten, who opted to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's first child, made a maiden Test half-century off 74 balls as he and Kallis scored freely in a long final session, during which the West Indies had to bowl 39 overs after a slow over-rate earlier in the day.

South Africa gained a clean-sweep 5-0 win in the only previous series between the two sides in 1998-99.

First Published: Dec 12, 2003 14:40 IST