South Africans coast to victory against Saurashtra
South Africans 303 for 8 (Smith 90, Kallis 78) beat Saurashtra 227 for 5 (Mehta 95, Kotak 82) by 76 runs
South Africa's big guns got some useful batting and bowling practice ahead of the Champions Trophy as they romped to a 76-run win in a warm-up game against Saurashtra in Mumbai. Graeme Smith hammered 90 from 54 balls and Jacques Kallis made 78 as South Africa amassed 303 for 8, while Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel both grabbed a couple of wickets as Saurashtra were restricted to 227.
The South Africans batted first after Saurashtra won the toss and chose to field. Smith and Boeta Dippenaar began well, with the first 10 overs fetching 73. Dippenaar had a couple of close shaves in the ninth over - an edge past first slip and an uppish drive that fell just short of the fielder at point - and their partnership of 107 was finally cut short when, attempting to slog sweep against the left-arm spin of Rakesh Dhruv, Dippenaar missed and was bowled.
Kallis came in next and started off with a four. Smith, meanwhile, launched Dhruv for three consecutive sixes before being caught at mid-on in the same over, ending a frenetic knock which included 15 fours and three sixes. The Saurashtra spinners bowled 38 out of the 50 overs and managed to bring down the run rate a touch. In the 12 overs after Smith departed, the South Africans managed only 40 runs and lost the wickets of AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher. Kallis and Justin Kemp, returning from injury, managed to rotate the strike in their 50-run partnership. After Kallis was run-out for 78, the bowlers - Shaun Pollock, Robin Peterson and Nel chipped in 34 to lift the total to 303.
Saurashtra, who have been promoted to the Elite group of the Ranji Trophy this season, began slowly, managing only ten in the first five overs. The South African fast bowlers were impressive, with Ntini, especially, beating the bat quite regularly. The run rate picked up when the spinners came into the attack in the 22nd over, as the Saurashtra batsmen saw this game as a chance to get some practice before the beginning of the domestic season. Smith and Peterson were both belted around the park by Shitanshu Kotak and Pratik Mehta, with Peterson going for nearly six an over - if this trend continues, the absence of Nicky Boje will be sorely felt. Kotak and Mehta added 161 for the fifth wicket before Mehta was run out in the penultimate over after scoring an aggressive 95. His innings included ten fours, many of them off Justin Kemp, who leaked 32 in three overs.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the match, Smith felt the outing was especially useful in helping the team get their groove back in subcontinental conditions, after the tri-series in Sri Lanka was cut short due to a bomb blast.
"It was definitely a good outing for us, and should serve us well in the forthcoming games," Smith said. "The batting was obviously a healthy sign. The bowling too looked good at the start though their batsmen fought back well in the middle overs. The important thing is we got the start we needed."
The South Africans played plenty of spin, and Smith was satisfied with the way his batsmen, tackled the slow bowlers. Though the spin quartet of Ravi Jadeja, Dhruv, Kotak and Jaydev Shah did well to restrict South Africa to 303 considering their start, Smith reflected on the positives, stating that it would serve as good practice in tackling spinners like Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand left-arm spinner. On the composition of his own side, he felt the team wasn't lacking another spinner, and added that they would stick to their strengths.
"I thought we tackled them [the spinners] okay, but we know there is scope for improvement and it is something we need to work on. We will be up against New Zealand shortly and they have a world-class spinner in their ranks in Vettori, and we have a lot of respect for him. We thought today was the ideal practice against bowlers of his class.
"We're not really concerned about the performance of our spinners. The pitches in South Africa suit pacers and we will stick by that combination through this tour."