Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth, 5th day December 20, 2005

Smith confident after marathon draw

Cricinfo staff



Jacques Rudolph drives during his seven hour match-saving innings © Getty Images
Graeme Smith was in bullish mood following South Africa's stunning rearguard action on the final day at Perth. Jacques Rudolph batted throughout the day, reaching his fifth Test century, as the team withstood all that the Australians could throw at them.

"We're pretty relaxed at the moment and we're happy with where we are," Smith told a news conference. "The last five days have given us more confidence and hopefully we'll be able to execute certain things better going into Melbourne. Our top six are very young in terms of games and age so to go up against some of the best bowlers in the world and perform the way we did showed a lot of character."

After being set a target of 491 runs in four sessions the South Africans had no option but to play for the draw. However, Smith believes that if they had restricted Australia to 100 runs fewer in their second innings they could have had the chance to force a win.

"We know we could have maybe got ourselves into a position to win the game but when we got ourselves into trouble we were able to get ourselves out of it and that certainly gives us a lot of confidence," he said. "We got close to 300 without really pushing ourselves at any stage so I think 350 to 400 would have give us an opportunity if we had batted well."

Without doubt, the star of the day was Rudolph, who faced 283 balls in over seven hours at the crease. What makes his story even more remarkable is that he wasn't originally going to play in the Test, but replaced the injured Jacques Kallis. With Justin Kemp also getting runs and Kallis fit again for Melbourne the South African selectors now have a pleasing problem of who to omit.

Smith paid a special tribute to Rudolph, for what was his most impressive Test innings. "This is massive for him. Life's all about opportunities and he's had a really tough year being up and down but through performances he's worked his way back into the squad," Smith said. "He got his opportunity in a Test match in tough circumstances and he's come through it with flying colours."

Rudolph himself said that he was so intent on saving the game for South Africa that personal milestones drifted into the background. "It was more of as relief getting through the day than actually getting a hundred. Obviously when I got into the 90s the hundred became a goal but the first priority for us getting through the 90 overs."

But given that South Africa were more than 200 runs adrift of their target when the game ended, there has been some criticism levelled at Ricky Ponting for not declaring earlier on the fourth day. However, Ponting defended his tactics and says they tried everthing they could to force the win.

"It was a long, hard day for us out there today and our boys toiled away exceptionally well and exceptionally hard but we just didn't create enough chances," he said following the match.

"We obviously knew the wicket was very good and it probably wasn't going to get much worse as the game went on. There was no variable bounce whatsoever through the course of the game. That made the run chase a bit easier for the South Africans."