South Africa in India / News

India v South Africa, 1st ODI, Hyderabad

'Our focus is winning the series' - Smith

Dileep Premachandran at Hyderabad

November 16, 2005

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Players like Ashwell Prince have brought youth and stability to a core of players sticking to a plan, believes Graeme Smith © Getty Images
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Graeme Smith put his side's 20-match winning streak down to stability and communication, maintaining that each player was positive in his role and could deliver in critical conditions. He spoke to the press after South Africa's clinical five-wicket win over India at Hyderabad.

On whether he was happy to be chasing 250

I think it was a par score at the beginning of the day. We always thought that wickets up front would be important. Obviously, once they were 35 for 5, chasing 250 was in the far distance, but Yuvraj played well. He had his chances, the nicks seemed to go past slips and stuff. But for the last four overs of their innings, I thought we had a very good day in the field.

On whether he was surprised that Dhoni came so low down the order

I was surprised. When they lost wickets up front, we thought they were hiding him away from the new ball which was a good sign for us. We messed around with their gameplan, and bowled with good pace in good areas. The pitch helped a bit but we got as much out of it as we could.

On whether naming Justin Ontong as pinch-hitter and having the 12 almost decided on the eve of the game helped them perform better

I think a big factor in our success has been our stability and our communication. In our 20 unbeaten games, we've felt that our team works better with a bit of stability. We've had almost the same core of players around for a long time and they're starting to get very confident in their roles. I think you can become too unpredictable even to the point where your own team doesn't know what's going on.

On the high point of the day

I think it was definitely the first 15 to 20 overs. I think our fast bowlers did well, and so did Johan Botha on a pitch that didn't offer much turn for him. He was nervous, first time playing for his country, and I thought he handled himself very well today.

On what bearing this result could have on the series

I'd much rather be 1-0 up than 1-0 down. As I said to the guys now, it's going to get harder. The day-night games, the toss will be a little bit more important but we've just got to carry on playing better cricket and carry on improving.

On whether forcing India to call on the Supersub scored some psychological points

It was of benefit to us, especially since we got the Supersub out early. It was always going to make their bowling line-up thin. With Pathan going for a bit today, it put the fifth bowler under even more pressure.

On whether he was surprised by the 9am start

Yeah, we'd like to have slept in a little longer (laughs). These are part of the touring conditions and you get used to them.

On whether he thought bowling first was a risk

Chasing in India can be difficult because the pitches can be dry and turn. You look at the wicket, assess the situation but there's always going to be a slight risk. But the guys delivered today.

On whether the team is conscious of how they need one more win to equal the world record for 21 matches unbeaten

I think the side's quite calm about it, we're not getting overawed about it. We know that if we get it right in Bangalore, we will have 21 wins [actually, matches unbeaten]. Our focus at the moment is winning this series.

On what has changed between last year's Test tour of India and now

I think obviously Test cricket and one-day cricket are very different. I think the key was that the side was spending a little bit more time. Once we got the side stabilised, we got guys finding their feet and becoming more comfortable at the international level. We could define roles with players because they were around longer than two or three matches. Players given the opportunity also put their hands up and performed. Once we got over the hurdle, our ability has come to the fore.

On whether there was a conscious effort to target Pathan

We definitely wanted to start well. The way we ended our bowling, India gained a lot of momentum and it was important for us to shift that early. It just happened to be Irfan Pathan today.

On whether he was worried by the beating the pace bowlers took at the end

Not at all. I know we didn't bowl well in the last four overs and we let them get back in the game. It's something we'll work at in practice and I'm confident that they'll come back and do really well. In the first 15 or 20 overs, we set our standards for the rest of the series. We just need to finish it off now. Losing Langeveldt, who's bowled well at the death for us, to a little niggle was tough for Makhaya who had to take up the responsibility. But I'm pretty confident overall in our bowling attack.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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