Graeme Smith `surprised` at `shock` axing of `matchwinner` Pietersen

Johannesburg: Former South African Test captain Graeme Smith has expressed his surprise at the shock sacking of controversial England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who plays along with him in county side Surrey.

Pietersen was sensationally axed by England in the aftermath of their 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia, despite the South Africa-born batsman being his country`s leading run-scorer across all formats.

According to Sport24, Smith feels that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) took its decision too hastily, saying that from an outsider`s perspective, it is surprising that the ECB decided to sack a quality player like Pietersen instead of trying to make it work with him.

Smith further said that Pietersen is in the middle of his career and still has a few good years left to play, adding that he still has plenty of energy, is fit, healthy and still performing well.

Surrey begin their County Championship Division Two campaign on Sunday, and Smith is excited by the prospect of taking to the crease alongside Pietersen, whom he hailed as a `matchwinner` and a `powerhouse crowd-puller`.

Smith retired from international cricket in March after a 109-game run as South Africa captain and having seen his debut season at Surrey ruined by an ankle injury, he is eager to make up for lost time in 2014.