The Mercury

Smith asks for Aussie aggro

- Stuart Hess

IN WHAT may bemuse both South African players and fans, Australia captain Steve Smith wants his players to express themselves more aggressive­ly when they face the Proteas in a five-match ODI series that starts in Centurion next week.

The Australian­s arrive in the country today before a tour that also includes a one-off ODI against Ireland in Benoni next week.

In a rarity for any Australian captain, Smith has called on his group to show “a bit more presence”, explaining that the players appeared to be too meek at times in Sri Lanka, particular­ly during the Test series which they lost 3-0.

“In the Test series in Sri Lanka we lacked a fair bit of energy in the field, and that probably cost us at times. We put down some crucial chances, and in the grand scheme of things that could have made a difference,” Smith said before the squad’s departure from Sydney yesterday.

“We’ve got some pretty quiet characters, so even if it’s not making noise verbally, it might be just about having a bit more presence and the old Australian way of puffing your chest out and making your presence felt.”

Those sentiments hardly fit with an Australian cricket team and may come as a surprise to Proteas players who have grown accustomed to Aussie sledging.

In recent years Australia have lost the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin, who were never shy of sharing their opinions, and as Smith hinted perhaps their replacemen­ts are taking a while to impress their personalit­ies on the team and the opposition.

Smith explained that he was impressed by Dave Warner’s leadership when he took over the captaincy of the ODI team in Australia when Smith, somewhat controvers­ially, was sent home to rest.

“I thought he did a great job with the guys. His energy was magnificen­t throughout those games and, looking forward, that’s the sort of energy we want from him and all of the other senior players,” Smith said.

Australia won that fivematch series 4-1 and for all of their problems away from home in white clothing, their 50-over performanc­es have been consistent.

Since winning the last World Cup, they have had a 65% win rate in ODIs (emerging victorious in 17 of 26 matches in that period) with only a single series loss to New Zealand earlier this year.

The side for the series against South Africa is a mixed bag, however, especially in the bowling department where they are without Mitchell Starc – who was going to be rested anyway, but is now recovering after suffering a gash to his left shin in training – Josh Hazlewood and all-rounder James Faulkner, who strained a hamstring while training last week.

In addition, Glenn Maxwell, despite his explosive performanc­es in the T20 matches against Sri Lanka, has been left to compete in Australia’s domestic one-day competitio­n.

Instead the tour offers the likes of Scott Boland, Chris Tremain, Joe Mennie and Daniel Worrall the opportunit­y to make a name for themselves – the latter three have yet to represent Australia at senior internatio­nal level.

The five-match series between the world champions and South Africa starts at SuperSport Park in Centurion next Friday.

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