India v South Africa, 3rd Test, Kanpur, 3rd day April 13, 2008

One-all at home would disappoint us: Smith

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'If we were playing India at home, and it was 1-1 we would be sitting in our dressing room a touch disappointed.' © AFP
 
South Africa will know India had to resort to the most desperate of measures to keep them from winning a series in India for the second time in the same decade. And even on the underprepared Green Park pitch, they didn't disgrace themselves, and went into the third day with a chance of victory.

After the match, Graeme Smith was not so disappointed that he would be bitter, yet he knew they could have done better on the third day when they let India's last wicket add 37 to their overnight lead. "We were also not as good with the ball as we have been in the series," Smith said. "We were a little bit too anxious to bowl India out instead of just bowling in the right areas. Today India proved that if you just got the ball in the right areas there is enough up there in the wicket for you. We let ourselves down slightly.

"When you are playing on a wicket like this, the margins are very small. We were 30 runs short in the first innings. That and India's getting a lead like that were the two big swinging points in the Test match."

This was a dramatic end to the third leg of their subcontinent tour during which they have done themselves proud. "It has been a terrific season," he said. "When we went to Pakistan, with three series in the subcontinent ahead of us, I don't think many people gave us any chance. We won in Pakistan, won in Bangladesh, and we came up good against a very good Indian team."

Their batsmen have come up in leaps and bounds over these series, and Smith said that the development of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, along with the comeback of Neil McKenzie, were the biggest gains of the season. "The way McKenzie has made the comeback and made the opening position his own is superb," Smith said. "Hashim has taken over the crucial No. 3 position, he has got all the shots, and has become stronger and stronger. I hope he carries that form into England.

"AB has batted at different positions, and the way he has adjusted is just great. We all know he has all the shots, and the ability, to become an outstanding cricketer. I think he is learning how to manage all that, and he will go from strength to strength."

It must have been disappointing to lose at the brink of a major upset, but Smith said 1-1 was a result the hosts will be more disappointed with. "If we were playing India at home, and it was 1-1 we would be sitting in our dressing room a touch disappointed. Both teams are strong at home. We would obviously have loved to win the series, but we have played some terrific cricket so far in this season. We have won eight out of 12 Test matches and lost two."

What was most remarkable about the South African team might not come through just by looking at these numbers. They were given a pitch that might have had other touring teams complaining bitterly. The South Africans, on the other hand, made no complaints - their captain and coach even mentioned that they wouldn't hesitate to give the tourists a greentop if they were looking to come back in a home series - and instead went ahead and gave it their best shot. This was in stark contrast to Ricky Ponting's team that lost in Mumbai in 2004-05.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo