Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 4th day October 17, 2013

Disappointed Smith promises to bounce back


Graeme Smith has not worn the look he had on today for 22 months and 15 Tests - the span between losing the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and their last defeat, to Sri Lanka in December 2011.

In its time away, the expression has grown considerably more tortured. His usual blue eyes become a shade at least five times darker, his mouth remains pursed, as though it is frowning the way a brow does and his jaw, appears more square than ever, jutting out aggressively, ready to protect and defend.

South Africa have not lost an away Test since Kolkata 2010, and the statistics from 2006 onward show them to be the best travelling team - with a win-loss ratio of 2.14. One defeat cannot erase that, but it has put a stain on otherwise clean sheet and that reality stings.

"It should hurt," Smith said. "But this team has too much ability to make this a habit. This is sport, you do lose and it's natural. We're extremely disappointed. We haven't been in this position too often. And with the standards that we set ourselves, we should have the ability to bounce back."

Smith is already thinking about the next match, perhaps because he wants to forget the out-of-sorts way South Africa performed in this one. After choosing to bat, they were bowled out for less than 250 and their bowlers could not adjust their lengths in time to suit the pitch at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, often bowling shorter than required.

South Africa lost their last six wickets for 50 in the first innings but they've been known to respond tenaciously even after lapses with the bat. This time, a refusal to bowl a fuller length meant "we didn't start as well with the new ball," as Smith admitted. With Pakistan registering their first century stand in more than 18 months, South Africa were out of the game before they could bat a second time.

"From a skill perspective Pakistan were better than us over a period of time and we have to be honest about that," Smith said. "The first innings was where we were put under pressure. Irfan bowled really well upfront but we fought hard to get into a good position and then we collapsed. If we'd pushed on to over 300, 350, we could have given ourselves a chance."

South Africa's second essay didn't turn too many heads either. But having been bowled out for 232 - which meant Pakistan needed only 40 runs to win - the way their bowlers approached defending a small target was encouraging for Smith.

Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander found a fuller length straight away and took three wickets in Pakistan's first four overs. "It was bittersweet because it made us think if we have 150 or 200 runs, we could have had a chance. But we were better with the new ball. That's a big step in the right direction."

That South Africa took almost four days to adjust could be seen as an indication they were underprepared for the conditions. They have not played Test cricket since February and their only opportunity to acclimatise was a lone warm-up game. Some of their players like Smith and Jacques Kallis were recovering from injury or enjoying time off to leave them individually short of match practice as well.

Smith would not concede on that front, insisting the team had done enough. "We maximised the preparation time we had," he said. "It's always very difficult to replicate Tests but we worked extremely hard in training.

"There wasn't a lot of time either. Maybe we could have played two two-day games but you also need preparation time to get to the ground you are going to be playing at and that sort of thing. The strength of this team has been the ability to maximise preparation time. This time, we've been outplayed and you have to look at that."

In an effort to polish their skills, South Africa will hold an optional training session tomorrow, before travelling to Dubai on Saturday and will be back at work on Sunday.

"We have to make sure we are not too emotional and that we have clever plans. We need to have good cricket discussions in terms of planning, tactics and skills," Smith said. "The motivation is there. We are really motivated to win the next Test match. That's got to be our ultimate goal. We have to focus on making sure our plans are better. We are one down and haven't played to our potential. I have no doubt we have a team that can come back and square the series."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Charles on October 18, 2013, 16:27 GMT

    Posted by Ask Ask on (October 17, 2013, 23:54 GMT) Moonda Sahab iss ko kioun upset kehte hain?

    Maybe you could rephrase that to 'Moonda Sahiba", buddy?

  • Dummy4 on October 18, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    Pakistan will defeat SA in 2nd test as well, because Pakistan has a more balanced bowling attack. Dubai pitch takes more Spin and they are bouncier, I believe SA will not be able to handle that. Pakistan Batting is lot more confident than what they were before the series.

  • Nix on October 18, 2013, 15:25 GMT

    @highveldhilbilly - I totally agree with what you say.

    @ZCFOutkast - Tsotsobe, Tsolekile, Pangiso, Gqamane are the players you are putting forward. I see where you are going with this.

  • Dummy4 on October 18, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    If Amla does not return in time, that means AB has to carry the weight of the batting order. Asking him to keep wicket too is a tall order. I don't think Tsolekile is the best keeper we have in SA, but he is the one on tour and I feel that he should play purely so that AB can focus solely on batting. That will allow for longer breaks in the field for AB and ultimately a fresher perspective when it's time to bat. Sacrificing a batsman (in this case, likely an out-of-sorts Elgar) for a half-and-half keeper just so that AB can focus on batting is worth it.

    Smith(c), Petersen, Faf, Kallis, AB, Duminy, Tsolekile(wk), Philander, Steyn, Tahir, Morkel. :)

  • ZCF on October 18, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    @highveldhillbilly, I don't know what on earth you're talking about. First of all this is Test cricket we're talking about, & the last time I checked, Gqamane hasn't represented our FC A side yet. When SL was here last time around and he was in top form, Aya was left out(seemingly deliberately) for a limping Parnell who stunk in that match.

    Secondly, against Aus A our seam attacked flopped horribly in the first game, but instead of playing him they were all given a second chance at Gqamane's expense, and naturally they redeemed themselves. Like Parnell, Marchant should not have played ahead of Aya and they both broke down afterwards!

    Finally, when India A came down he was again ignored! Bottomline is if Ayabulela Gqamane read Andrew Goldstone he would've played in one of those FC matches. Even when he played the ListA games he came in at third change!! Why on earth do you think Arendse spoke of being bowled/batted less/lower as one of the drivers for that "unspoken" policy change!?

  • rajmohan on October 18, 2013, 13:29 GMT

    South Africa biffed England 0-2 at home.....that is why this thrashing by Pakistan is profoundly satisfying for me....

  • Billy on October 18, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    Every cricketing side now knows how to become number one in the test rankings. Just don't play in unfamiliar foreign conditions. India got found out, then England got found out, then Australia and now South Africa are getting found out. South Africa haven't won a subcontinent series for a few years now and the reality is that they haven't played in many of these series. Interestingly the dominant West Indies era also struggled to win series in the subcontinent - a lot of drawn series against India and Pakistan away

  • Dummy4 on October 18, 2013, 12:11 GMT

    You cant expect a single batsman like Amla or AB to carry the whole innings As a Proteas supporter, I am really disappointed about this performance Though the 2nd innings bowling was brillian t

  • Cliffontong on October 18, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    @ZCFOutkast - Phangiso has a terrible first class record with an average of 35.39 and that includes playing in the lesser league games, he is a limited overs bowler not a test bowler. Gqamane form has fallen away badly in past couple of months - India A thumped him badly and since then it's just gotten worse. Hendricks is a much better prospect. What exactly has Alviro done since scoring a century in England last year, I can't remember one good innings since then?

    We lost because:

    We played RP as a spinner - can't take wickets or tie up an end Kallis, Smith look very under done Bowlers bowled a terrible length - insist on bowling short - crazy stupid 4 of our batsmen failed in both innings - Kallis, Faf, Smith and Alviro

    What has happened to Faf he looks awful?

  • Tom on October 18, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    The last three wickets were not due to good bowling but it was due to pressure of small target and Pakistan is expert in messing up the small chase. In SA Geoffrey Boycott predicted Pakistan batting vs South Africa bowling. Here its different and SA has to survive.