Smith taunts England batsmen

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The Independent Online

For Kevin Pietersen, England were "fantastic" in the first Test. For Graeme Smith they have been left to struggle with the "negative taste" of a collapse from which they only just escaped going one down in the four-match series.

When England similarly avoided defeat in the opening game of the Ashes, it swept them to Lord's – and eventual victory – on a wave of optimism, and while the ever-upbeat Pietersen lauds England's "strength of character" the suspicion is that Smith's observations, however skewed, ring truest.

"We've probably given them a few question marks, especially over the batting line-up," Smith said as the teams prepare for the start of the second Test on Boxing Day. "When you collapse like that it always leaves a negative taste, and I think we have left them with things to think about."

Smith appears to have done his thinking already and is ready to recall Dale Steyn, providing he can convince the captain and selectors he can last the five days, at the expense of the unfortunate Friedel de Wet.

The debutant was the man behind England's collapse, but Smith prefers to stick with what he knows best. "Makhaya [Ntini] brings a lot of experience," he said. "He maybe didn't bowl as well as he would have liked in Centurion, but he's a guy I really support and has been integral through my captaincy – so I back him to come through and bowl well in this Test."

Pietersen, meanwhile, will end a tough personal year at a ground where he played much of his early cricket. "It's true 2009 hasn't been fun. But hey-ho, life isn't always good," he said.

Pietersen being Pietersen though, negative thoughts were soon banished. "I truly believe we can win the series," he asserted. "We've got the attack to bowl South Africa out – and we can score runs as well. I thought we were fantastic in the first Test, the strength of character that we showed. The boys are really fired up and want to keep the momentum going from the Ashes – not like in 2005."

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