I was sledging, not chatting with Azhar Ali: Steve Smith

Steve Smith (R)

Sydney, Nov 11 (IANS) Australian batsman Steve Smith has said that his captain Michael Clarke may have misinterpreted his sledging with Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali during the second Test in Abu Dhabi as a friendly chat.

Early in Pakistan's first innings, Clarke was clearly unimpressed with Smith, who was fielding close to the pitch and engaging in discussions with the opposition's batsman, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian captain chided Smith and reportedly told him that Azhar's friends were upstairs in the Pakistan dressing room and not down on the field.

Azhar was on 14 at the time and went on to score 109 (which he followed up with 100 in the second innings) in Pakistan's 356-run demolition of Australia. Pakistan earlier won the first Test just as comfortably, by 221 runs.

"Yeah, I'm not sure what happened there. I was actually getting into him. So, it was not what I expected, but that happens I guess," the 25-year-old Smith said after arriving in Perth on Monday to prepare for Australia's two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against South Africa at the WACA Ground starting Friday.

"We like to play good, hard, tough, aggressive cricket when we're out in the field. That's the way we like to play, so we'll continue to do that."

When asked if Clarke misinterpreted the conversation that was taking place, Smith said: "I think that's how it was."

Australia are currently ranked number three in the ODI rankings with 114 points, behind South Africa (115) and India (116).

As well as trying to recapture the top ranking, the hosts are also looking for a positive start to their preparation for the World Cup starting this February 14.

They will play South Africa on Friday and on Sunday before playing one game each in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

The first Test against India then starts at the Gabba this December 4.

Smith says time is running out for players to cement their spots for the World Cup.

"It's (a) pretty important (series). They are trying, obviously, to get the team that they will be playing in the World Cup and there's not too many games before then," he said.

"There's plenty of work to do and all of the boys are trying to get a spot in the team. We're very excited to be back in Australia. It's going to be nice to get out there and bat on something with a bit of bounce and pace on it.

Smith earned reasonable success in the two-Test series, scoring 174 runs and he is optimistic of continuing in the same vein.

"I was pretty happy with the way I batted in the ODIs in the UAE. Hopefully I can carry on my form in this form of the game and keep trying to get as many runs as I can and putting my case forward as much as I can as well."

While Australia looked every part a fish out of water in the two-Test series in the UAE, Smith doesn't think South Africa will have the same issues adjusting to conditions in their upcoming series.

He says he's sure the visiting fast bowling pair of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will also enjoy the bounce of the Australian wickets.

"They are a very good outfit and our conditions are very similar to theirs back home in South Africa as well. it's going to be a tough challenge and the boys are looking forward to it," he said.

"We recently played the tri-series in Zimbabwe where they got the better of us. It's another chance for us to come out and try to improve against them."

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