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Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

SA skipper Smith breaks his hand

Graeme Smith
Smith averaged 75 with the bat in the 2008 Test calendar year

South Africa captain Graeme Smith broke his left hand on day two of the Sydney Test against Australia and is unlikely to bat in the second innings.

Smith was surprised by a Mitchell Johnson delivery and was struck on the knuckle on his little finger.

He retired hurt on 30 and went for x-rays that showed the break in the fifth metacarpal. He is out for six weeks.

Smith had, however, already planned to miss the one-day series in Australia because of his right elbow problem.

He will meet with the team's medical specialists in Pretoria next week to plan his recovery from both injuries. He has a good chance of being ready for the home Test series against Australia, which starts on 26 February.

Smith will bat in the second innings in Sydney only if South Africa need a handful of runs for victory and a stand-in captain will be decided before the second innings.

With Ashwell Prince also out with a hand injury, wicketkeeper Mark Boucher is the leading candidate.

"If we need 10 to win I'm pretty sure Graeme will go in there, but it all depends on the situation," the spinner Paul Harris said. "He's disappointed to be injured, but this is the kick he needed to take a little bit of rest.

"The big guy has been playing for a long time in a lot of pain. I don't think people realise how hard it is to play in the pain he is in. A lot of other guys would have packed in a long time ago."

Smith, the victim of a crack in the surface of the Sydney wicket, was forced to retire hurt when he was unable to put his glove back on.

He had batted with all his current form and confidence in making 30 off 31 balls (five boundaries) when he was struck on the hand by Australian left-hander Mitchell Johnson.

Cricket South Africa released a statement, saying: "Medical opinion is that he will not require surgery - the injury has been placed in a plastic cast - and that the recovery time should be approximately six weeks, the same length of time he is likely to require to allow his elbow to recover."

The sunny weather in coastal New South Wales will widen the cracks on the pitch and the visitors will have to bat last when the surface is at its most testing.

For the one-day internationals, veteran Neil McKenzie will remain with the squad, while Johan Botha will skipper the side in place of Smith.

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see also
Clarke century boosts Australia
04 Jan 09 |  Cricket
Smith ruled out of S Africa ODIs
01 Jan 09 |  South Africa

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