Smith's 100 lifts Proteas
Top run-scorer in the one-day international series against New Zealand with 189 runs, Graeme Smith said he was delighted with his century but a little disappointed not to have scored the winning runs in the third and final game in Potchefstroom on Friday.
“After handling a lot of pressure out there while we lost wickets consistently, I felt that the shot was on but I didn't execute it that well,” said Smith after holing out to long-on and ending an innings of 116 off 130 balls.
“It would have been nice to be the man at the end to take it home but I was happy with the way I played and felt my contribution played a big role in getting us over the line.”
New Zealand had already won the series 2-0 and set a target of 261 for the hosts to chase.
Needing eight off the last over, South Africa had to make three off the last ball.
Under immense pressure, Ryan McLaren scooped a six off James Franklin to finish it off and restore some pride in the young side.
“It was great to see Ryan McClaren, who's been in and out of the team a fair amount, pick up four wickets and hit the winning runs,” Smith said.
“It can only do wonders for his confidence and I thought he handled the situation really well. For guys to be in those positions and overcome them is a big step in their careers.”
The Proteas had spent a large part of 2012 playing test cricket and Smith said he was pleased to be able to carry his form through the 50-over format. He was also enjoying playing a mentoring role, behind the scenes, to the newer members of the squad.
“I've been chatting with the less experienced players, on a relaxed basis, about the mistakes they've made and how to help them going forward,” he said.
“They're very keen to learn and they approach me looking for information, so that makes my life easier. I have a good relationship with them as I've seen a lot of them coming in and out of the team over the years, so it's nice to see them get more opportunities.”
For the upcoming series against Pakistan the formidable senior line-up was likely to be back but Smith said it was important for those drafted in as replacements to understand they still had a role to play.
“We also need to remember that Jacques Kallis won't be around much longer in one-day cricket so it's important that these guys grow and develop in the roles they're going to be facing in the future.”
Having lost the series 2-1, Smith acknowledged the Proteas had been in winning positions in both of the first two matches and yet went on to lose them. At the same time, he paid tribute to the relatively inexperienced New Zealand side and said they had a significant role to play in one-day cricket.
“Credit to Brendon McCullum and his team for the way they bounced back after the tests,” Smith said.
“We always knew they were going to be formidable in the one-day game and the fact that they got runs on the board and then had the ability to squeeze us and pile on the pressure was typical New Zealand cricket.
“The disappointing thing for me is that we should have won both of the first two games and we didn't. As a team, we need to take responsibility for that and improve so tonight was a nice opportunity to get over the line.”