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Cricket | SA Team

Challenge is to maintain standards – Smith



In their three test matches at home this summer, South Africa have yet to be stretched to a fifth day and keeping up such high standards of cricket would be their greatest challenge, said captain Graeme Smith on Monday.

South Africa defeated Pakistan, in their first of a three test series, by 211 runs and the match, at the Wanderers, in Johannesburg, was completed before lunch on the fourth day.

Coming off two tests against New Zealand, which also ended inside three and four days respectively, Smith said he was not concerned about the shortened tests because it was always important to play your best, no matter the length of the test.

“We won't dream of taking a test to a fifth day because it's a lot of hard work but to keep backing up these kinds of performances will be the key for us,” Smith said.

“After putting in the hard yards, like we did on day two of this test, it's more of a challenge for us to continue to play at such a high standard the next day.” He said they still had to train hard, remain humble in their processes and keep focussed on their high standards.

After posting a total of 253 in their first innings, South Africa – or Dale Steyn – bowled out Pakistan for just 49 runs in their reply.

Steyn's six wickets, at a cost of eight runs, inside of eight overs, set the way forward for the rest of the match.

Smith acknowledged that surfaces in South Africa would always provide assistance for the fast bowlers but he felt their consistency in recent tests and the pressure they created on opposing teams was something special.

“To see the skill, the pace and the intensity with which they bowled – never letting up – and the doubt they created in the batsmen's minds, was the exciting thing to watch from the slips.

“You could feel the pressure building on the batsmen and the atmosphere becoming more and more intense in the middle.”

He said the whole team had gone through building phases and worked hard to get to this point but Steyn's match figures of 11 for 60 –particularly his three wickets before and three wickets after lunch in Pakistan's first innings, at a cost of only eight runs – was an outstanding achievement.

“With the ball on day two, it was important for someone set the tone for us and Dale did that with his first three wickets and everyone followed suit after that,” Smith said.

Smith barely had to delay his second innings declaration to allow AB de Villiers to score his test century. At the time, he could not know that De Villiers would go on to become the first cricketer, not only in a test match but in all first class cricket, to take 11 catches behind the stumps and score a hundred.

“AB's keeping has been outstanding and it's just getting better and better,” the skipper said.

“He's solid behind stumps and confident where he's catching balls which is exciting for us as it gives us all a chance to spread out a bit and cover more space.

“He was always going to be judged on runs so it was terrific to see him get another 100 and to have him as a keeper gives us so many options.” Smith thought Pakistan would bounce back and said his team were taking nothing for granted.

“We expect Pakistan to get better and better on this tour as they're a very talented bunch of cricketers.

“The challenge for us is to keep bowling as well as we have done and we need to keep posting totals and pay respect to their bowling line up which can be very dangerous.”

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