Pakistan v South Africa, 1st ODI, Lahore October 18, 2007

Plenty of positives, says Smith



Mahkaya Ntini's return to form was one of the huge gains on a day when South Africa did everything almost perfectly © AFP
On days like this, Graeme Smith must feel cricket is an easy game. Batsmen score runs, bowlers take wickets and fielders back them up. What better way to celebrate an outstanding Test series win than by comfortably winning the first ODI five days later?

"We're very happy with the way we played today," Smith agreed. "We controlled 90% of the game and the majority of it was very comfortable for us. They were always behind the eight-ball [even when Pakistan's lower-order briefly rallied] and we always knew one good over would change it."

The game was set up, Smith acknowledged, by Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers; both scored hundreds in a 137-run partnership for the third wicket. And if ever instructions were needed on how innings should be paced, both provided it.

de Villiers began solidly. His fifty came from 62 balls, which isn't slow, but his hundred only 31 balls later. Gibbs' second fifty came at a run-a-ball. "I was especially happy to push through and get to hundred," said de Villiers. "I gave myself time to get in. It wasn't easy against the spinners early and Hersch told me just to settle down first. Once I got to fifty, I thought I'd push and suddenly I was in the nineties."

More than any bowler, however, his own body challenged him. As he pushed on, the heat, the lack of water brought on cramps. He reacted to it in celebratory fashion though, hitting two sixes and two fours in the 47th over when he was really struggling to stand up. "It wasn't as bad as it was in the World Cup," he said, referring to his hundred against the West Indies, before joking, "Good to see it's not because of the alcohol."

South Africa's top order has been the least of Smith's concerns on this tour, for all of them have contributed at one stage or another. The only nagging concern has been over Makhaya Ntini, who looked so flat during the Tests. Even that was put aside today, as the bounce returned to his run-up and his bowling.

If de Villiers and Gibbs set it up, then Ntini finished it off, taking out Pakistan's top four all by himself. He went for runs in his second spell but that will not bother Smith. "It's good to see him come back. He's hitting his straps now. He's not been up to his own standards so far though he improved during the second Test, but it was good to see him back up to his standards today."

South Africa have maintained high standards from the day they landed and with the second game on Saturday, more of the same will be expected. "We've played really good cricket since we've been here, right from day one. 1-0 is always a good start and there are a lot of positives to take out from today. Maybe we can talk about our death bowling but we were very good."

Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo