It's my best innings: Smith

Graeme Smith was proud of the character he and McKenzie demonstrated after their hundreds batted the Proteas towards an unlikely first Test draw.

updated: July 17, 2008 16:08 IST
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South Africa captain Graeme Smith was proud of the character he and old schoolfriend Neil McKenzie demonstrated after their hundreds batted the Proteas towards an unlikely first Test draw against England.

The duo shared a stand of 204 before Smith was out shortly before the close but the left-hander's innings of 107 played a major role in South Africa reaching stumps on 242 for one after they'd been made to follow-on.

That still left them 104 runs behind England's first innings 593 for eight declared.

However, Michael Vaughan's men headed into Monday's final day knowing they had to take nine wickets, having managed just one on Sunday, to have a chance of going 1-0 up in this four-Test series.

For the 27-year-old Smith, this was his second Test hundred at Lord's.

Five years ago the Western Province batsman made 259, the highest individual score by an overseas batsman in a Lord's Test, a match the Proteas won by a crushing innings and 92 runs.

Smith, who batted for over five hours after being dismissed for just eight in the first innings, acknowledged this was another sort of century entirely after England dominated the first three days of this match.

"The first few days were very different to 2003. We've been outplayed and England have been more precise," he said.

He added: "One thing you learn is to bat the situation. It was really good hard Test cricket today, man-on-man, and it defines the character of people."

The South Africa skipper, who prior to this Test had been at the crease for just two hours on tour, after suffering a hamstring injury while playing in the Indian Premier League, added: "It's got to be one of my best innings, considering the pressure we'd been under."

McKenzie's hundred was his fifth Test century but third this year after nearly four years out of the side.

But the decision to convert the 32-year-old from a middle-order batsman to an opener has proved a good one and he will resume Monday on 102 not out, having already defied England's attack for nearly seven hours.

"It's great for me to have 'Mac' back in the set-up," said Smith. "We took a risk pushing him up front but we backed his mental strength and technique and it's been a terrific performance by him.

Looking to the final day, Smith said: "The morning session tomorrow is crucial for us.

"The ball will still be pretty new. Monty Panesar will still be a big threat but we've played spin pretty well for the last year and I would like to see that continue."

Neither side will have much time to recover ahead of Friday's start of the second Test in Leeds and Smith added: "We let ourselves down and the bowlers are hurting. Hopefully, we can only improve at Headingley."