'Our plan against Smith worked' - Amin
Umar Amin, the Pakistan A captain, has something useful to share with the Pakistan senior side ahead of the Tests against South Africa: how to get Graeme Smith out. It took Pakistan A just 15 deliveries to remove the opposition captain, who has been out of the game for five months and will have only one more innings before the series begins. Smith was also the only South African batsmen not to profit from time in the middle on the opening day of the three-day tour match in Sharjah.
He was dropped at first slip off Ehsan Adil in the fifth over before being trapped lbw in the seventh by the same bowler. "We planned something against him and that worked out pretty well today," Amin said. But he would not go any further. "We just wanted to set him up with a plan and I cannot really give you the plan right here."
Amin was more than willing to divulge the secret to Misbah-ul-Haq and Co. "Of course, why not? I'm a part of the senior team as well so I'll definitely give it to them," Amin said.
Because Smith's strength is on the leg side, many bowlers attack him just outside the off stump or try to square him up and he may have wanted more time in the middle to remind himself of that. Although Smith spent little more than 30 minutes at the crease, he held a long net session with coach Russell Domingo in the afternoon. Hashim Amla, who scored a fluent fifty before retiring, said with an attitude such as Smith's, there is no reason to be concerned about the South Africa captain's readiness come the first Test next Monday.
"Graeme will be fine. He is the type of guy," Amla said, before clarifying he meant that as a tongue-in-cheek comment. "He is an amazing opening batsmen and takes his practice very seriously. And there is still a second innings too."
Amla said the rest of the line-up was so satisfied with the outing they had, they would be ready to play the Test tomorrow. "I think the team is good to go, even if we started the Test match tomorrow," Amla said. "Fortunately, everybody got a bat and got some value out of it."
He explained that because many of them had had match practice in the last few months, they used today as a way to adjust to the temperatures and the pace of the pitch. He found the morning the hottest time to bat, but also the easiest, because the spinners had not been able to find any assistance by then. "It was a good batting deck and the seamers were quite nice to face early on," Amla said. "But I think it started turning towards the end of the day and it might have got a little trickier."
Although Usman Qadir, in particular, found generous turn, South Africa's batsmen played him with ease and took runs off all the slower bowlers to show their ability in that department ahead of a Test series that is expected to be headlined by spin.
Amin was not too concerned with the way his young attack was taken on, instead seeing it as a learning curve for them, and not a sign that Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Zulfiqur Babar will suffer the same fate. "It wasn't as disappointing because the lack of experience showed," Amin said. "One of the spinners, Usman, is only 20. With the passage of time, I think he'll learn, especially after bowling against one of the best sides in the world."
The same goes for Amin as a leader, especially as he has been touted as a future Pakistan captain. "I enjoyed it, being my first outing with a senior team as a captain," Amin said. "It was a very good experience, especially captaining against some of the top players and trying to set fields according to their weaknesses and giving my bowlers some plans against them."
Not much went Pakistan A's way but the wickets of Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers would have buoyed them, especially after Amla and Alviro Petersen retired after making fifties and it appeared one-way traffic. Amin hoped they can apply themselves with more aggression with ball in hand tomorrow.
"It's definitely our plan to bat for the whole day and play with their confidence a bit and try to shake their confidence," Amin said. "This is our younger side so, if we bat all day, it will give them something to think about."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent