Woolmer lambasts 'abject' Pakistan batting display
Pakistan aren't a team alien to collapses, but if Bob Woolmer has to go to the extent of terming it "the worst batting I've seen in my time as coach" it must be bad news. Woolmer described Pakistan's collapse as "abject" and hoped that his team would learn to play on these bowler-friendly pitches.
"It was a very poor batting performance," he said emphatically. "Our fielding and bowling was excellent - much better than the previous game - but our batting was abject. It wasn't an easy surface by any stretch of imagination but our shot selection wasn't very good. If we bat the way we did today, even the presence of Inzamam-ul-Haq would not have been enough. A defeat like this is disappointing. We're disappointed for the Pakistan public. We let them down."
A big factor in this game, though, was a pitch out utterly of character with the subcontinent - one with appreciable bounce and seam. "Even in South Africa you don't get too many wickets that go around so much like that," admitted a pleasantly surprised Graeme Smith at the end of the day. "But it was a challenge for us; don't under-estimate how hard we had to work to get there. We needed to graft after we were 42 for 5 and had all the hard work to do. Even on a track like this we had to bowl the ball in the right areas. I thought Pakistan did it superbly upfront and we were just terrific in the field tonight."
The nature of the surface meant that a batsman like Justin Kemp, usually flamboyant in his strokeplay, had to knuckle down. Kemp admitted that he, along with the other half-centurion Mark Boucher, were targeting around 160-170 when they'd got their eye in. "When we got a 100, 160 to 180 was still in our minds," said Kemp. "Batting on that wicket I felt that it [the ball] was going to do more under lights. I thought 213 was enough but we were trying to keep wickets in hand at the death.
Smith's target was even lesser. "There was a stage when I was hoping for 120-150 so when we got past 200, " he continued, "and I was very happy. I did believe it would be enough but I knew we had to do well. We had to start well, get a good chunk of the Pakistan batting. If they got off to a good start it would always be difficult. And then we had Makhaya [Ntini] who led the bowling attack with Polly [Pollock] complementing him."
Woolmer, though, refused to criticise the surface, focusing his ire at the batsmen instead. "We thought it was a better pitch than the one we played against New Zealand," he asserted. "It was skiddy and there was a lot of seam movement. We need to learn to play on these types of pitches. It is not temperamental, it's technical. Our players play a lot away from the body. We had the same problem in Perth which we worked on. When exposed to a class bowling attack on a wicket which is not just bouncy but actually seaming and moving around, then most sides get into trouble. Even South Africa got into trouble."
South Africa's thumping win meant that they topped the group and will now travel to Jaipur for the second semi-final. Smith, though, had no problem, though one might have expected that this pitch would have suited them just fine. "We don't really mind [going to Jaipur]. Obviously everyone's going to say this wicket suits us more but we've been preparing hard on wickets that have been low and slow. It was nice to see this wicket - it surprised us but we have to move to Jaipur and adapt. Adapt has been the keyword on our trip so far and we've to move and do the same there."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo