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South Africa will rise above Pietersen rivalry

South Africa captain Graeme Smith has insisted the presence of Kevin Pietersen in the England side won't act like a red rag to a bull when the sides meet in their World Twenty20 Super Eights opener.

Thursday's clash at Trent Bridge is set to be the latest high-profile match which sees South Africa-born Pietersen up against the Proteas.

Pietersen controversially quit South Africa and opted to play for England, where his mother was born, in protest at a policy of racial quotas in domestic cricket which he believed were hampering his prospects.

Smith, another white cricketer, by contrast stayed and his relationship with Pietersen has often been fractious.

England batting ace Pietersen labelled Smith "an absolute muppet" in his autobiography and Smith once said: "Kevin and I would get on a lot better if he kept his mouth shut."

But Smith, speaking after South Africa's one-run win over New Zealand in their final group match, insisted such ill-feeling was a thing of the past.

"I don't think there's animosity there," he said. "There will always be the competitiveness between players. He's a world-class batter.

"There's no doubt he'll be up for the game on Thursday and tactically we will look at a few things.

"But I think South African teams have come a long way in terms of the way we play our game. We control our emotions very well now. We are tactically quite astute and calm under pressure.

"We'd rather look at executing good skills rather than get into scrambles that don't really need to be there."

During the past year South Africa have won Test series in both England and Australia and Smith said that was proof of their increasing maturity.

"It's shown in the results we've turned out in the last two years. We've travelled to pretty much every continent and won."

Pietersen top-scored with 58 in England's 48-run win over Pakistan having missed their shock defeat in the tournament opener against the Netherlands with an Achilles injury.

Asked which England would turn up at Trent Bridge, Smith replied: "We are preparing like we are going to get the one that played against Pakistan. "England have got some class players and obviously will have home support going into the game on Thursday."

Tuesday's match against New Zealand may have been a 'dead' game, with both sides already through to the second phase after beating minnows Scotland, but Smith was heartened by the way in which his bowlers held their nerve at Lord's.

South Africa only made 128 for seven, Smith top-scoring with 33.

But just when it seemed the Black Caps were cruising home, left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe (two for 14) struck to remove key batsmen Ross Taylor (22) and skipper Brendon McCullum (57).

Then, with 15 needed for New Zealand to win off the last over, 19-year-old pace bowler Wayne Parnell demonstrated admirable composure.

"I think in terms of the bigger picture it was fantastic for us to have a high pressure game," said Smith. "To defend a total like that and perform under pressure was great."

South Africa's Super Eights group, from which two sides go through to the semi-finals, also features reigning champions India and the West Indies.

The other group includes minnows Ireland, a so under performing Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

But Smith said he felt there was a benefit to being in the 'harder' group.

"Whoever gets through this group has an advantage. They will have played really competitive cricket through the Super Eights and will probably be better for it going through to the semi-finals."

source - indiatimes.com
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