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Pietersen the key for England: Smith

June 25, 2008 11:07 IST

South Africa captain Graeme Smith said batsman Kevin Pietersen would be the key player for England in their forthcoming Test and one-day series.

Smith leads a touring party to England for the second time after captaining the 2003 side at the age of 22, scoring two double centuries in the first two Tests before England recovered to level the series at 2-2.

Smith, who admitted his side will benefit from his greater experience this time round, said the South African-born Pietersen would be important to England's success.

"KP is the key batsman and obviously we will need to control him," Smith told reporters on Monday, the eve of the team's departure for England.

"But we don't want to get involved in any personal antics. The best way to silence someone is by the cricket you play."

"I have wonderful personal memories from that [2003] tour, but the team is a lot more settled now. I put on a very strong outward persona, but there were a lot of nerves inside my stomach.

"Hopefully I'm a lot more grown up now and we can go a step further," he added.

Coach Mickey Arthur agreed the South Africans would bring a battle-hardened team to England.

"It's no coincidence we're in this position because Graeme and I have been building for this tour for the last two years. There's a lot of caps and a lot of experience in the side now; the guys are confident, they know their roles and they know where they fit in," Arthur said.

Arthur confirmed that the South Africans would make use of their leading wicket-taker, Shaun Pollock, who retired from international cricket in February but is playing county cricket and will work as a television commentator in England.

"I've already chatted to Polly and he said he will be free to give us advice. We will bring him in and maybe he can help at a few net sessions," Arthur said.

South Africa have not won a series in England since 1965, but Smith said the hosts may have their minds on selection issues this time around.

"I think there are more tactical and selection worries for them. They have to decide whether to play an extra batsman or Andrew Flintoff at number six. I think Michael Vaughan will prefer to have five bowlers, which means they will be a batsman short and that could be a key tactical factor."

Smith said South Africa's main worry is the length of the tour, which only ends on September 3, and includes four Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 game.

"Mentally it can be very draining with all the media demands, the crowds and the sheer time away from home. But this time the Tests will be first, so hopefully that will be easier to manage."

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