Strauss hails Broad progress

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The Independent Online

Andrew Strauss believes Stuart Broad has taken significant strides on the road to becoming a "complete cricketer".

Broad was expected to be fit again in time for today's pivotal one-day international against South Africa at Newlands, having recovered from a shoulder injury.

The hosts have already lapped up suggestions that they may target the seamer in his first match back, but Strauss is convinced Broad will have what it takes to rise to the occasion.

Broad himself recently conceded he endured a learning curve when South Africa toured England last year. But he has since hit back with a man-of-the-match haul to help clinch the Ashes at The Oval three months ago, and with three wickets against South Africa in the Champions Trophy this autumn.

As England seek to go 2-0 up today, with only two more matches to play, Strauss is confident Broad is a much-improved performer.

"He's still a young man and he got thrust into the England team very early in his career," said the captain.

"I'm a big believer that everyone needs to go through a tough patch, in order to become a complete cricketer.

"He had a little bit of a time there, in the last series against South Africa, where he didn't bowl quite as well as he'd like to. But I think he's revelling in being one of the senior bowlers now."

The company 23-year-old Broad has kept can only have helped.

"At that stage, we had the likes of (Stephen) Harmison and (Andrew) Flintoff around, and I think that's improved both his performances and his thinking," added Strauss.

"I have every confidence he's going to make a real mark on this tour."

Strauss' opposite number Graeme Smith senses there may be a chance to target Broad before he becomes reaccustomed to his surroundings - although he clearly has a healthy respect for the Nottinghamshire pace bowler's talents.

Asked whether Broad might be vulnerable, the South Africa captain said: "You would always hope so. But he's proved to be a quality player for England over a period of time.

"It's great to have England at full strength. We want to play against the best they've got."

South Africa are well aware, if they were not already before their opening defeat at Centurion last weekend, that they are up against challenging opponents.

Smith disputes the home attack was toothless first up - but accepts swift improvements are required in all departments.

"I think when a team puts on 150 it always looks a bit flat and like you don't have many answers," he said, reflecting on a match in which Paul Collingwood and Jonathan Trott shared a stand of 162.

"But we know we can improve and have spoken a lot about areas where we want to improve.

"A lot of our guys got starts in the top five, top six (at Centurion). It's about them learning from that and making those starts count."