New Zealand v South Africa, 1st Test, Dunedin, 5th day March 11, 2012

Smith more disappointed at washout


Graeme Smith and Ross Taylor do not have much in common. One is an experienced captain and a confident talker, the other a novice in terms of leadership and neat with his words. One shrugged in his acceptance of the drawn Dunedin Test, with the knowledge that his bowlers could well have blasted their way to victory, the other beamed, hoping his batsmen would have had the wherewithal to withstand.

New Zealand needed 264 runs with eight wickets in hand on the final day, setting the match up for a photo finish. It ended up a damp squib, something both captains were disappointed by, with Smith the one who clearly expected more. "We expected this, so that's why we declared when we did yesterday. We were hoping to have a bit of a go at them," he said. "We were aiming for about four or five down with a second new ball around the corner, [then] I think we would have been in with a shot."

Taylor was less vocal about New Zealand's chances and given that they would have to record their most successful run chase in history, one can see why. Although both he and Brendon McCullum had settled in on a tricky pitch, he admitted that nothing short of a supreme effort would have been good enough. "It would've have taken some good batting," Taylor said. "Brendon and I would have had to bat for a while just to dent their attack."

The suggestion to both was that perhaps the shared spoils was as good as it was going to get, with implications that South Africa should get better in the next match, while New Zealand might struggle to keep up. "The first two days we weren't at our best but we improved as the test went on," Smith said. He threw out the possibility of jet lag, change of format and need to adjust to weather conditions as possible reasons for South Africa lumbering off the blocks but warned that they are intent on "starting well," in Hamilton.

Taylor did not take the bait. Instead, he implied it was insulting to assume that New Zealand were not up on the same level as some of the bigger Test nations. "We played [well against] Australia a while ago, so it's no surprise to us that we're competing with South Africa," he said. "We know we need to keeping lifting our game in the next 10 days of cricket, if we do that we'll be competitive in the next two Tests."

While Smith has an eye on the No. 1 ranking, which is out of South Africa's reach for now because a 3-nil result is no longer possible, Taylor's view is focussed on smaller things. He described it as simply making sure "the batsmen make runs and the bowlers take wickets", but in reality it's far bigger than that. With five specialist batsmen and four seamers, New Zealand need to ensure everyone understands their role clearly because there isn't often someone to pick up the slack.

In this match, Taylor was one of the batsmen who was aware of what he needed to do. The one similarity he shared with Smith is that they both found form in the match, Smith with a half-century and a century, Taylor with 44 and 48 not out. Both had returned from injury, Smith was hit on the arm in the first net session he had in New Zealand and Taylor was out for almost six weeks with a calf injury, and both thought the time they spent in the middle was much needed.

"I was feeling good when I arrived in New Zealand and I felt after the 70 [68] and the hundred [the fourth and fifth ODIs against Sri Lanka in January] in South Africa, a lot came off my shoulders," Smith said. "To play this game and to do well was great, and to build on all that work I did before here was great."

Taylor had a longer time away from the crease due to a calf injury and a less emphatic performance in the Test, but said there were encouraging signs for him going forward. "I was pretty nervous going into the series, not having had a bat beforehand," Taylor said. "I would've liked to get a bigger score, but it was nice [to score a few runs] because you [worry about] whether you're going to come in rusty. The pitch was pretty flat, so I don't want to get too carried away, but you can only play on what wicket you're on. I'll take it as a pass mark."

Form will be important because the challenges of batting are set to become bigger. Smith said that he overheard Taylor saying he had asked for a green track in Hamilton in his post-match television interview and expects the venue to have more in it for the bowlers.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on March 13, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    I agree, declaring at 300 would have been too risky had it not rained. Then Smith would take the abuse from this. I am sure Smith realizes that NZ are not a side to be taken for granted. They would have knocked off 300 given the time I think. 400 was safe. In my eyes a draw would have been better than a loss if he had gambled. I guess as a captain, you cannot please everybody.

  • Duncan on March 12, 2012, 19:04 GMT

    Not sure how predictable weather is in that part of NZ, but in Cape Town SA the weather man can say it is going to rain... and... well, it doesn't. If Smith had declared early we would all be calling for his head if it did not rain and NZ had chased it down! HOW TO WIN 1) Reduce the chances of losing 2) Increase the chances of winning.

  • SUNIL on March 12, 2012, 11:15 GMT

    i think the decision of taylor to demand for a green track in hamilton is quite sane because the rsa attack is going to trouble nz on any pitch in the world so if they prepare a green track at least their bowlers would have something to prove so best of luck black caps

  • Andrew on March 12, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    @beejaytee - I think a Greentop will suit NZ better as well, Nz have a few batsmen that will throw the bat & can score 40 or 50 on any sort of track, against any sort of bowling. So in a low scoring match they are a real chance.

  • Michael on March 12, 2012, 2:06 GMT

    @hamanar - Fair question, I think the reason people are not giving NZ credit is because 1) they were only 35 runs ahead after the first session despite abysmal batting from SA based on their form and excellent batting from NZ based on their form; 2) NZ were only a third of the way to equalizing with 2 down, a risky player and a solid player at the crease, 3) like it or not SA bowlers when under pressure are a force to be reckoned with.

    Finally if NZ want respect they need to show it. I honestly think their behaviour during the qtr final of the world cup will come to haunt them. Bottom-line is SA deserve respect first IMHO which NZ don't give them so why should SA give NZ respect.

    My heart definitely wants to see NZ win at least 1 to vindicate our loss in Hobart but my head says SA deserve this (also be good to take it from them when we ready lol).

  • Prem on March 12, 2012, 0:30 GMT

    If Smith knew about the rain, why did he not declare when SAF were 300 ahead and try and bowl NZ out earlier? SAF did bat slowly in their second dig.

  • Beau on March 11, 2012, 22:53 GMT

    The thing SA and NZ fans have in common is our ability to find positives in just about anything. We NZ fans should realise SA were probably going to win this Test, and will probably win the next. SA fans should realise that SA should have won, and blew it. SA knew that it was probably going to be a four-day Test, as we all did. But they batted slowly, and then put up 400 as their idea of a "sporting" total. This with Steyn & Philander, against a team who rarely manage a 400+ innings. There are reasons SA are the best team in the world *on paper*, but not in terms of results. Taylor wants green pitches because NZ know they're going to struggle against these bowlers anyway, and they might as well make it tough for the SA batsmen too. Sure, it's risky, but it's the best plan available. SA are always vulnerable, despite how good they look on paper. Go Black Caps!

  • Grant on March 11, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    @Busie1979: Don't forget the Saffers playing for Ireland, the Netherlands and today's case in point, New Zealand's SA import Kruger Van Wyk, without whom they may never have had a 1st innings lead to begin with. To be fair, New Zealand competed well up until the 4th day and we'll never know what could have happened on the 5th, but now that nearly all the South African batsmen have shown some signs of good form, NZ shouldn't have much hope for the rest of the series but rather treat it as a coaching clinic. And Kruger Van Wyk should treat it as a talent search.

  • Nick on March 11, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    South Africa and England are neck and neck, with Australia not too far behind. Although when you factor in the fact that Strauss, Trott, Pieterson and Prior (with good South Africans waiting in the wings) South Africa are the real number one in my book. If these guys were available to play for South Africa, their batting line up would be scary.

  • Hamish on March 11, 2012, 11:09 GMT

    Erm, I find it odd that so many people give very little credit to NZ for how they performed in this match. The predictions beforehand were that NZ would struggle to make double figures and that SA would score about 700. If my memory serves NZ had a first innings lead, and were looking fairly comfortable at the end of day four on a flat wicket, that was not looking like it was about to break up. As to Graeme Smith's comments about the timing of his declaration, piffle. If he was so sure that rain was coming, and so assured of victory, why not declare ealier and make a real contest of it? I heard one his post match interviews, where he appeared to intimate that NZ Cricket had deliberately set the match in Dunedin with the view to having it shortened by weather so the home side would be more likely to draw. Shame - sounds a bit like sour grapes to me. Regardless of the outcome of the series, and I also believe that NZ will find it hard to win, I don't think NZ have had much respect.

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