Booing a part of the game - Smith

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Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen departs to a cacophony of jeers from the Port Elizabeth crowd during Sunday's win over South Africa

Graeme Smith insists the onus is on Kevin Pietersen to simply deal with inevitable hostility from partisan crowds in his native country.

The South Africa captain freely admits he does not expect the final one-day international against England tomorrow to take place, because of the seemingly never-ending rain in Durban.

Should there be play in a match the hosts must win to square the series, the jury is out over the reception Pietersen is likely to get on what was once his home ground.

The Pietermaritzburg-born batsman was booed, jeered and whistled all the way to the crease and - just a few minutes later - back again during England's victory in Port Elizabeth last weekend.

Smith believes it is something which simply goes with the territory, especially for a player who turned his back on South Africa to move to England.

"It happens round the world these days," Smith admitted. "I watched Ricky (Ponting) getting booed consistently in England (in this summer's Ashes).

"I think a couple of England fans booed me on Sunday, so it's just something you become used to as an international cricketer.

"Fans are biased towards their teams. You have to learn to have a little bit of a thick skin."

Earlier this week England team director Andy Flower lamented the growing tendency of modern crowds to jeer opposition players, claiming he found it "sad" that respect for the game's greatest players is dwindling in some quarters.

The stakes are clearly that bit higher for Pietersen, whose career went on a dramatic upward curve from the moment he left his homeland.

Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith revealed he felt the force of the fans' tongues last week - but claims "it's something you get used to"

"He's obviously got a history through things that he's done and said, and people are still getting over those emotions," Smith added.

"The crowds have been quite vocal again towards him. Ultimately, I think it's just his job to get on with it and deal with that."

One man unlikely to be booed, despite his differences with Smith during this year's Champions Trophy, is England captain Andrew Strauss - and his opposite number gave him a glowing character reference today.

"Andrew is an intelligent guy, with a lot of common sense," he said. "He's the guy we expected him to be.

"He's provided a lot of stability for England and has gone about it the way we have expected.”

Strauss' imperious batting form in 2009 has not quite extended into this series, a point not lost on Smith.

"We've managed to keep a little hold on him in terms of his batting; he still hasn't scored a fifty against South Africa in one-day cricket," he noted, hinting too that the absence of the injured Andrew Flintoff may have given Strauss a more straightforward opportunity to forge a 'new' England.

"It's probably easier for him to manage a team without many big names around, easier to form a better environment probably," Smith concluded.

The South Africa captain appeared borderline resigned, meanwhile, to a washout tomorrow - and therefore only his country's second one-day series defeat at home.

"South Africa has proven we have the capabilities of having facilities ready for games," he said. “But there has been a huge amount of rain around for weeks now, so I think the groundstaff have got their work cut out.


The outfield at Durban bears the scars of torrential rain. Smith, for one, does not expect the match to go ahead tomorrow

"I know the weather's not great, and no one expects us to play. But as a team, we have to be prepared.

"If we get on the field tomorrow, we have a chance of levelling the series - and that's our focus."

South Africa's predicament is largely of their own making, Smith admitted.

"We just really haven't performed up to standard in at least two of those games, so we've only got ourselves to blame," he said.

"In PE, knowing that the weather was going to be bad this week, that was always going to be a crucial game - and we never performed well enough. That is our responsibility.

"We've got to live with that and learn from our mistakes - that's the key."

If there is play, South Africa are unlikely to risk pace bowler Dale Steyn's hamstring strain in awkward conditions tomorrow, preferring instead to ensure he is fit for the forthcoming Test series.

However, wicketkeeper Mark Boucher is expected to be fit after a minor groin injury.

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