South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 1st day April 27, 2006

Smith defends decision to bowl

Cricinfo staff

Graeme Smith: banking on his batsmen to wrest the initiative © Getty Images

Graeme Smith, the South African captain, defended his decision to bowl after winning the toss in the second Test at Cape Town. New Zealand ended the first day on 265 for 6, but Smith believed that the pitch would be at its best for batting on the second and third days, and that South Africa could take control of the game if they batted well.

"I think about 300's a par score if you're batting first," Smith told reporters after the first day's action. "I think the pitch will only get better for the second innings, it'll do a bit on most mornings but once you get through that there's a lot of runs to be scored. So we'll be looking for a big total."

He admitted that his bowlers leaked a few too many runs, but was quite satisfied that they had also managed to take six wickets. "Their strike-rate of 3.3 to 3.4 an over was a bit more than we would have liked. We'd have preferred to have kept them under three. But six down I'm pretty happy with. Once the ball gets old here the pitch plays pretty flat and it slows up a bit - the carry diminishes."

Smith wasn't unduly concerned about the possibility of batting last on a pitch expected to help the spinners. "Yes, it's turning a little but we always expect it to turn a bit here. It's usually slow turn, and we've simply backed ourselves to deal with it on day four or five."

If it does come to a situation where South Africa have a sizeable fourth-innings target to achieve, there will be a key role for Jeetan Patel, the New Zealand offspinner who is making his Test debut. "I've still got the anxiety and nerves running through me," he said. "I haven't been out on the park yet but I'm very excited to be playing my first Test - it's a great opportunity for me."

He hoped a few days of sunshine would help the pitch crack up and assist him and Daniel Vettori later in the game. "I don't think it's a belter, but I think the second and third day will be best for batting and after that it might prove more difficult and offer more to the spinners," he said. "It's not crumbling yet, but another day in the sun with guys running up and down, you'd expect it might start to go."