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Cricket | South Africa

Graeme Smith © Gallo Images

Mission accomplished and a positive tour

"Mission Accomplished" and "a pretty positive tour". These were the words of coach Gary Kirsten and captain Graeme Smith as the South African team arrived back from New Zealand on Wednesday.

"I'm very happy with the whole tour, it was mission accomplished. We knew it would be a tough challenge, New Zealand's not an easy place to tour and they were in-form. We made a slow start in the first T20 but then hit our straps and the quality of our cricket was of a high standard," Kirsten said.

Having wrestled the Black Caps to the mat, Smith said his team were confident they could beat both England and Australia on their home turf later this year.

"It was a pretty positive tour for us, we played a lot of cricket on the front foot. The players were able to grow relationships and styles and how they fit into the environment and the work ethic. They were all able to find their place in the squad and Gary and his management team offered us everything possible for success.

"I definitely think we can beat both England and Australia away. We have a lot of the same players who did it in 2008/9, but we have an extra edge now in terms of the way we think about the way we play and train, plus there's the addition of players like Vernon Philander, Marchant de Lange and Lopsy Tsotsobe.

"But we know those two teams play very well at home and you've got to handle the pressure of big crowds and the media being against you. England will have played a lot of competitive cricket by the time we get there and it's a tough place to win. So it's a very big tour for us, but we've crossed that hurdle before and we know we can do it," Smith said.

South Africa were dominant in the test series but bad weather and a disputed TV referral of a catch restricted them to just a 1-0 series win. The turning down of Alviro Petersen's effort early on in Kane Williamson's match-saving century on the final day of the third test was the last in a series of debatable decisions based on technology, but Smith said the controversies have not sown seeds of doubt in the players' minds over the use of the Decision Review System (DRS).

"I did read a report that there were issues with the set-up of the cameras, which obviously isn't ideal, and there has been a lot of skepticism about the last bit of the ball-tracking. But DRS has become an integral part of the game, it's great for the fans and I can't imagine playing without it.

"It was designed to take away the shocking decision and it's done that. I'd like to see it play a prominent part in international cricket," Smith said.

Apart from captaining the team with aplomb, Smith also brought tremendous value as an opening batsman in tricky conditions, finishing as the leading run-scorer in the series with 282 runs in three tests.

"After the Kimberley ODI against Sri Lanka when I scored a seventy and then moving on to my century at the Wanderers, I worked hard on my game before the tour. Then Morne Morkel cleaned me up in the first practice, which set me back a bit. But it was great to carry that form through the tests.

"I'm starting to feel that my game is back to normal now, I'm feeling more in control of my game," Smith said.

For Kirsten, it is now time to look forward to the England tour starting on July 9.

"I am looking forward to the tour to the United Kingdom, that's our next big one. We have lofty standards as a team and we made great progress in New Zealand. The tour taught us about our strengths and capabilities.

"The bowling unit was outstanding, they bowled with real intensity and proved that we have a world-class attack. And the batting got better through the tour as well.

"We now have some time off, but we'll need to spend a fair amount of time planning and strategising for England. Graeme and I live in the same city, so we'll be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks," Kirsten said.


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