Mission accomplished for Smith, Kirsten
South African cricket supporters may have been disappointed with the Proteas' failure to win the final test match against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Tuesday but captain Graeme Smith and coach Gary Kirsten both proclaimed the seven-week tour a "great success."
Quizzed about what in hindsight suggested was a 'conservative' declaration leaving the home side with an impossible target of 389 in just 81 overs, Smith was brutally honest: "I didn't think New Zealand deserved any more. Given the quality of cricket that we played I didn't they deserved a chance at levelling the series," Smith said.
"They played a bit defensively through the middle part of the test match and never scored at over three runs per over, so that didn't move the game forward. We lost something like 150 overs on the first two days and there was only ever one team pushing for victory - and we nearly got there. I am very proud of the team and the way we played," Smith said.
The match would almost certainly have been over by tea if a controversial third-umpire decision had not gone against the tourists soon after opener Daniel Flynn and Brendon McCullum had been removed without score. Middle-order batsman Kane Williamson was 'caught' by Alviro Petersen at point but stood his ground. Third umpire Billy Doctrove examined evidence, which looked to be inconclusive, but the catch was declared 'not out.'
"It's done now - there's nothing we can do about that. The third umpire has ruled on a few of them in the series and when there's been doubt the decision has gone with the fielder, but not this time," said Smith. Williamson, seven at the time, finished with an unbeaten 102 to ensure the draw.
Morne Morkel became only the second South African bowler to take the first six wickets of a test innings after Bert Vogler, who achieved the feat against England at Lord's in 1907. "I wasn't aware of that - no!", laughed Morkel who was given the new ball on "a captain's hunch," admitted Smith.
"I have been bowling well all tour but I chatted with Gary and Allan before he left about my lengths and we thought I was maybe a bit short. I bowled a bit fuller and it obviously worked this time," said Morkel.
The delivery that broke Ross Taylor's wrist may have increased South Africa's chances of winning the game, but it was not good news for Morkel: "We were supposed to be teammates at the Delhi Daredevils (in the IPL) so I don't suppose the people there will be very happy with me, but it's part of the game. I'm sorry for Ross, but I can't pitch every ball up!"
Williamson, however, delivered the best lines after the match - albeit inadvertently. Asked whether there was any "element of enjoyment" during an especially vicious spell in which pain seemed a higher goal than wickets. "Yes, there was a little bit. You either choose to laugh or cry during something like that, and I chose to try and enjoy it. It was something a bit different - I haven't experienced anything like that before."
Smith admitted that he isn't always in control of his premier fast bowler when he "gets that irritated."
"I know when to talk to Dale [Steyn] and when to give him a few minutes to cool off. Sometimes you just need to give him a couple of minutes to cool off."
Coach Gary Kirsten was even more effusive about the success of the tour than the captain: "It was an outstanding success in terms of achieving our goals and developing a depth of players who we can rely on in the tours to come. Virtually every time we turned to a 'fringe player', he made an impact. We leave with three trophies but some of our biggest achievements might be behind the scenes," Kirsten said.