New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd Test, Wellington, 5th day March 27, 2012

'New Zealand didn't deserve anything more' - Smith

South Africa could have declared earlier and tempted the hosts to go for the target in Wellington, but having dominated the series Graeme Smith did not want to risk a loss

Few could deny that South Africa deserved to win the Test series against New Zealand. They were, as their captain Graeme Smith said, "on the front foot" most of the time. Their bowling was pure class, their batting got better as the series went on and they kept New Zealand under pressure throughout. If anything, the victory could have been by a bigger margin than 1-0. Had rain not affected the first and third Tests, had Smith left New Zealand a few more overs to face in Wellington: these are the what-ifs that will remain.

Smith had to perform a tricky balancing act on the final day, knowing that a draw was enough to seal the series but a win would make the scoreline more emphatic. He could have dangled a carrot and set New Zealand a chaseable target, but waited till the target had swelled to 389 runs off around 80 overs before declaring. Smith said he did not want to give the hosts any chance of levelling the series, since it was one South Africa had dominated.

"I don't think New Zealand deserved anything more," he said. "Being 1-0 up in the series I didn't think they deserved any more." Smith's statement suggested he did not think New Zealand had earned the right to be in with a chance of victory, and he was not going to allow them one with a sporting declaration.

New Zealand had been behind in the Test right until the final day. After putting South Africa in to bat, they conceded 474 runs, despite South Africa having to bat through significant rain-delays. New Zealand collapsed in familiar fashion on the fourth day as they failed to contend with a display of pace bowling that will be remembered for a long time. They did finally get things right on the final day, battling with the bat to earn a draw, which according to Smith, was all they deserved from the Test. Smith said New Zealand were the team that had shown less intent to go after a win.

"I felt New Zealand could have been more aggressive in their first innings," he said. "They never got to three runs per over throughout the Test match and maybe played a bit defensively through the middle part of the game. But we were aggressive throughout."

Smith had the luxury of a bowling attack that is naturally aggressive but he said they had also batted with the same positivity. "We showed that last night with the way we came out and built a platform. This morning I thought we played positively from the get-go and scored well." AB de Villiers and JP Duminy helped South Africa score 114 runs in just over an hour on the fifth morning, at a rate of 7.92 runs per over.

New Zealand never showed the same intent at any stage in the series, and Brendon McCullum admitted South Africa had been the team in control. "I think they deserved to win the series, they've been the better team throughout," he said. He also said he understood Smith's tactic to bat New Zealand out of the game before declaring. "They definitely didn't want to give us a sniff, and I completely understand that because they dominated the game for so long. They didn't need to entertain the thought of us winning."

The gulf between the two sides has at times during the series seemed wider than Lake Taupo. However, there were phases when the contest was much closer. In each of the first two Tests, New Zealand bowled South Africa out for under 300 in the first innings. In every match, New Zealand have had a partnership that has threatened to take the game away from the South Africa bowlers.

At every juncture though, New Zealand have stopped short of taking control and allowed South Africa to assert themselves. At those same junctures, South Africa have had answers.

"We've competed at times and I guess we'll never know what could've happened in that first Test," McCullum said. "As a whole I think a fighting effort like we put up on this final day was a really good result. We had them on the ropes at times but I think 1-0 is probably a fair reflection of the series."

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Beau on March 28, 2012, 23:37 GMT

    Typical. What Smith should have said was "This is the result both teams deserved." For all the talk of playing the "perfect match", SA remain hilariously conservative. Considering the talent in the team, this fear of losing is now the one glaring weakness that remains. Worrying about what your opposition "deserves"? Ridiculous, and also untrue. Smith was afraid of losing to a much weaker side, and ending the string of away series wins. He was also possibly worried about the mental scars that might emerge should NZ manage to put together a decent innings against his (rightly) vaunted attack before they start preparing for England. By keeping the innings to 80 overs, he ensured that the bowler's momentum would continue without any possibility of lengthy spells or real pressure. He didn't even trust his boys to repeat what they'd done all tour - bowl NZ out for less than 300. SA don't deserve the #1 spot.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2012, 14:32 GMT

    "The series did justice to the ranking of both teams" REALLY? REALLY? if it did why would RSA drop one rating point after winning the series?

  • Tso on March 28, 2012, 6:46 GMT

    Some comments on this article are rubbish in my opinion. For some to say that Smith is the worst captain is preposterous! Just look at his captaincy record, his second innings centuries and compare that we all the South African captains that preceded him and i'm sure none match his stats, so, please give Smith a break. In fact, as a South African, i'm quite happy that we are NOT the No 1 ranked Test side, as that will put unnecessary pressure on the boys to perform, and the underdog's tag suits us perfectly. For those of you who seem to think that England is the best side in the world must just wake up from wonderland, because England are just poor when it comes to playing in the sub-continent as opposed to the Proteas!

  • Paul on March 28, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    Mel-vin, we're talking about the just-completed series in New Zealand. You may choose to harp on about the last WC and NZ's now-favourite cry of 'Hobart' but they are both irrelevant to the domination SA showed in all three formats, against NZ, in NZ, in the series under discussion. But then you guys invented Suzi so nothing surprises me...

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2012, 4:42 GMT

    To put this quote in context we must remember that NZ WON the toss and chose to bowl first. Sure conditions were difficult for bowlers and rain interrupted them but they made little to no effort to force a result. Their team selection was defensive (remove a bowler after failing to get 20 SA wickets on two occasions) from the outset. The onus was never on SA to create a situation in which either team could win. That was NZ's responsibility in this Test and they never made an effort to do that. Even the NZ commentators were talking about a lack of intensity from NZ. They didn't deserve to be in with a shout in this match because they never made the effort themselves.

  • fhfgdgfg on March 27, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    Bad remark by captain Smith. Remember, SA lost to NZ in the last WC.

  • ntokozo on March 27, 2012, 22:29 GMT

    Why exactly should SA strive to be like the 'great West Indian and Australian sides of the past'? SA are SA; not anybody else. They are going to dominate world cricket in their own way. They need to form their own identity. Although I can't wait till AB becomes the Test captain, I have a lot of respect for Smith. Call him defensive, arrogant or a bully all you want, but he leads from the front. When he gets going, SA are bound to win. His so-called arrogant attitude sends a clear message to future opposition like Eng and Aus. SA's problem has always been inconsistency (winning today, and then losing the next match). It is good to see Gary encouraging an approach from the premise that we should not lose first. That is top priority! SA had no business chasing the game having already won an away series they've dominated. I like the new attitude. Shut out any possibility of the opposition winning and attack relentlessly with a fearsome attack. SA will be a very hard nut to crack soon :)

  • Paul on March 27, 2012, 21:39 GMT

    Smith has never been an articulate captain, so no surprises that he said 'NZ did not deserve...' Better to have said 'South Africa deserved...' for he would have been spot on, there would have been none of this post-series Kiwi whining and wild speculation regarding possible outcomes in Dunedin. The facts are, the rain robbed SA of a 3-0 victory; there is an enormous gulf between the two sides, and NZ at home are a tricky proposition. So, well done, South Africa, you won all three series', away from home...and would have done even better had the weather not intervened. I agree, though, that AB should replace Smith as captain, that Boucher must go...NOW.

  • Geoff on March 27, 2012, 21:16 GMT

    Didn't deserve anything more. Way to reinforce the stereotype, Graeme.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 20:56 GMT

    why the uproar against Smith? his comments were completely justified. Why declare, and give us a chance of drawing a series that South Africa deserved to win? This isn't arrogance, but pure truth. What an excellent bowling unit the South Africans are. Our batsmen played some poor shots, for sure, but for the most part South Africa were just too good with the ball in hand.

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