IGNORESmith elbowed out of ODI series

The South Africa captain Graeme Smith will return home after the third and final Test against Australia in a bid to recover from his chronic elbow injury.

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The South Africa captain Graeme Smith will return home after the third and final Test against Australia in a bid to recover from his chronic elbow injury. Smith will miss the two Twenty20 internationals and five one-day matches against Australia later this month, but is expected to be available for the three-game home Test series against Australia that begins in February.

"We have decided to send Graeme home after the Sydney Test to give him the best chance of getting ready for the home series," the South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said. "He will have the blood injection as soon as he gets back and we think that by following this course of action as soon as possible after Sydney, we will give him the best possibility opportunity of being fit for the home series." Arthur said Smith has been in a high amount of pain during this Test series and it was amazing that he has continued to lead the team so well.

"He is four or five cortizone injections down the line. We thought the cortizone was going to work but that is not going to be the case," Arthur revealed. "He goes through a huge amount of discomfort and it seems to get a lot worse when he reaches 40 or 50. It almost gets to a point when he can't grip the bat with his top hand any more. He is desperate to play at Sydney and make it a great match for the team and for South Africa. He has a very high pain threshold."

The veteran Neil McKenzie will remain with the squad, while Johan Botha will captain the side in place of Smith. Arthur is confident that the team will still be able to perform well, despite the absence of Smith. "It does give us an opportunity with our ODI side. As I have always said, our one-day side is still a work in progress, it is still a young side, and we are giving an opportunity to some younger guys to stake a claim.

"We are looking to build our one-day side over the next two years which obviously culminates in the next World Cup on the sub-continent in 2011," Arthur said. "So it will be a slightly younger one-day side. Johan Botha will take over as captain and we will keep another wise head in the dressing room in the form of Neil McKenzie. He will stay as cover in the batting department and we think that is the best route to go."

"It is unfortunate to lose your captain but we need to give him the best opportunity to be ready for the Test series in South Africa." Meanwhile, the struggling Australian opener Matthew Hayden has given no thought to retirement despite the prospect of being dumped from the Test side if his poor run of form continues against South Africa in the third Test in Sydney. The 102-Test veteran has scored just 56 runs in his last six innings and is hanging on to his spot on reputation alone.

But Hayden, 37, knows another failure in the Sydney Test, which starts tomorrow, is almost certain to end his international career. That call appears likely to be made by the selectors, with Hayden giving every indication he wants to play on beyond this series. Asked whether he had contemplated retirement after scoring eight and 23 in the Boxing Day Test defeat in Melbourne, Hayden responded: "I'm not sure going after you lose a series, in the middle of the series, would be the right time to go. There's absolutely no doubt about that."

"So I didn't think about it for a minute." The Queenslander claims to be impervious to the pressure mounting on him, revealing he has lent on past experiences to help him through the difficult patch. "I've never been first picked in the side and that's held me in good stead because I think 'wow I've got to play well'," he explained. "That's been a great needle in my side that's agitated me to make sure I'm working harder than anyone else.

"I've been written off many times before and really loved and thrived on the fact I've come back and enjoyed playing Test match cricket for Australia." But he admitted Sydney could be his international swansong if he cannot regain form. "Performances have been average for me and I guess I live and die by the standards that I've set over a 15-20 year career," he said. * PA Sport