Kelly Smuts back to boost Eastern Province's final chances

Coach Piet Botha wants to get basics right in bid for silverware against Northerns

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Eastern Province have been bolstered by the return of Kelly Smuts as they prepare for the CSA Provincial Challenge final against Northerns starting on Thursday.
Smuts, who suffered a stress fracture to his foot in early February, was meant to miss the remainder of the domestic season but coach Piet Botha confirmed on Wednesday that Smuts would make his return for the final, which gets underway at St George’s Park from 10am.
“Kelly is fit now. He will obviously not bowl, because of the foot injury, but he is fit to bat,” Botha said.
Having had a stellar season to this point, the magnitude of the match cannot be underestimated as EP look to claim the title they last won back in 2010.
Botha says there is a lot of excitement in the team as they take on the inland side for the right to be called provincial champions.
“The spirit is very good, it's been like that all season. It's something that has been part of our success. The guys have their feet on the ground, they realise that they have to play the game well and go through all the processes and not think too far ahead,” Botha added. ‘
Botha has on many occasions spoken about getting a solid start to matches and he said it would be no different this time around.
“In any cricket game it is vitally important. [A good start] is what we will be aiming for again, but they also realise that anybody can get a good ball at any stage so we just need to be prepared if things don’t work out as planned. We do have our plan B and C in place,” the former Warriors coach said.
Asked about the team's strengths, Botha said: “We have been able to play quite well in the first innings so we hope to repeat that. We also have bowlers who have really stood up this season with some good stats. So, if they can continue their good form then I think we do have strength in both disciplines.”
Speaking about conditions at St George’s Park and how the toss could affect the match, Botha said while it was important, ultimately it came down to his players doing the business on the field, regardless of which way the coin fell.
“The toss is important, but ultimately, you just want to get the game started. You don't have control over it [the toss]. If you lose the toss, you must just deal with it, you cannot say we lost an advantage because the toss went against us.
“We try to break the game up into small sessions, whether we have to bowl or bat first. We take it step by step and try to win those sessions,” Botha added.
On how the players have adjusted their mindset from the three-day format to four-day, Botha said: “We don’t put too much emphasis on it. At the end of the day, it's an extra day, the only difference is that we are not forced to think about declarations as early as you would in a three-day game.
“Also, if you bat well, you can maybe bat a little deeper and also once you get to the fourth day, the wicket might be more conducive to spin as you would find in a three-day game. So we have spoken about it and we are aware of what to expect,” he added.
“There will be a few nerves around as the game starts, for both teams, but it will be up to me to help my boys overcome that and once you get into the game it will settle down a bit,” he added...

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