GRIM SMITH won the opening battle of the Boer War in Johannesburg yesterday, blasting England captain Andrew Strauss for not wanting to play in tonight’s Twenty20clash at the Wanderers.
Grim, spelt Graeme, may just have done his rivals a favour by calling Strauss’s non-playing role into question yesterday — England’s Johannesburg-born captain Strauss is now considering playing after opening bat Alistair Cook succumbed to a virus overnight.
Smith will no doubt take the credit for that. He’s that sort of bloke.
He has been in charge of the Proteas since the departure of the disgraced and now-departed Hansie Cronje five years ago. And he has come a long way since his first clash with England at the tender age of 22, when his record-breaking batting spoke louder than his clumsy words.
As the two nations go into a torrid schedule of 11 showdowns in 10 weeks, Smith — who has taken his team to No1 in the world rankings in both forms of the game — saw fit yesterday to have a go at Strauss’s decision to miss the two Twenty20 internationals this weekend and give the captain’s armband (if only cricketers had them) to Paul Collingwood.
Having scored 72 and 117 not out in England’s opening two tour wins, there are those who feel Strauss might have made the difference when England were all out for 89 and crushed by four wickets in a Twenty20 warm-up against South Africa A on Tuesday night.
Smith, who averages over 50 in Tests, said when asked about Strauss’s reluctance to play in the shortest form of the game: “It does surprise me. It’s very difficult to keep chopping and changing and I think it will be difficult for your coach Andy Flower to be working with a different captain with a different outlook.
“Who handles team meetings, who runs the show? Those are questions it’s difficult for me to answer but it must be an interesting dynamic within the side.
“He’s scoring runs, he has been successful in one-day cricket over a period of time, maybe it’s something he is reassessing in his own mind but it does surprise me that on a tour like this having started so well that he’s not playing a part.”
Smith won’t have it all his own way on this tour though. The last time the pair met, Strauss was the runaway winner.
It was a Champions Trophy qualifier at Centurion last month, an injured Smith needed a runner and the England captain said no.
Despite a Grim ton, South Africa were comperhensively beaten and the hosts crashed out of the competition.
Smith insists: “There are no personal hard feelings. It is going to be competitive. I guess we’re trying to work out at the moment how Andrew is going to go about things. He has been a very quiet individual whenever we have played against him, almost stuck in the background, a clean and tidy type of character.
“I think he is trying to be a lot sterner and tougher in his ways and maybe he thinks the England environment needs that. He is much more outspoken now, I guess the captaincy does that to you so it will be interesting to see how he goes this summer.”
On a less serious note comes news of Graeme Swann’s moustache, another stunning exclusive. You may need a magnifying glass and spectacles, but it IS there, stubbornly clinging on just above the top lip as England warmed up for tonight’s Twenty20 clash against South Africa in Johannesburg. Swann himself twittered last night: “Oh dear, my so-called ’tache is a disgrace. A semi-ginger, patchy disgrace! Still I must stick with it... at least until ordered to shave!” A less light-hearted twitter from Swannie this week reads: “‘This part of Joburg is safe as houses,’ said our liaison officer. Round the next corner? Bullet-ridden car, news crews, body bags!” Paceman Jimmy Anderson echoed that sentiment: “Just seen the aftermath of a shooting near the hotel. Cars full of bullet holes. Very scary.”