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November 12, 2007
Despite winning the first Test with plenty to spare, Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, has criticised the pitch at the Wanderers, and the standard of wickets in general in South Africa.
"Wickets around the country are becoming poorer. In the last two years it's become more difficult to find decent Test wickets in South Africa. If we're going to take our game forward we need to take note of those things. I think it's important that we have really good wickets so that our young players can really learn to bowl on a good pitch."
Smith had a tough call to make at the start of the game, and his decision to bat first was initially questioned as South Africa stumbled to 226 in their first innings. However, New Zealand managed just 118 in reply, and the second innings of both teams turned out to be largely one-way traffic.
"We knew it was going to be difficult batting first in the overhead conditions and the wicket being a little damp on day one," Smith said after the game. "We knew it would do a bit, but we also knew it would be very tough at the back end of the match to bat. We would have liked something around 300, but 220 was a solid base, and then obviously we had to bowl well, and we did bowl really well."
The leader of the bowling attack was Dale Steyn, who exploited the conditions superbly, taking five wickets in each innings to win the Man-of-the-Match award. Smith had plenty of good words for him and the other bowlers.
"The partnership of the bowling attack has performed very well and the bowlers have fulfilled their roles superbly. You can't ask more of your team-mates than that. As a captain, you give them certain roles and ask them to achieve certain things, and when they do, it's really, really good."
Steyn himself was suitably chuffed with his performance. "I almost shed a tear. I enjoy bowling at the Wanderers. It's nice to see the ball carrying past the [batsman's] shoulders," he said, indicating that, unlike his captain, he certainly had no problems with the pitch. He also said that the recent successes had made the batsmen more wary of him. "I find now, when I bowl a bad ball, the good players tend to leave it. In the past, they would just smash me."
For Daniel Vettori, though, it was an entirely forgettable start to his stint as Test captain. The first day was a good one, but from there it went rapidly downhill as the batting collapsed and the bowlers toiled 126 overs for just three wickets in the South African second innings. Injuries to Shane Bond and Jacob Oram made matters even worse for New Zealand in the field.
"I think we started pretty well," Vettori said after the game. "It was very pleasing the way Shane Bond and Chris Martin were bowling. Our bowlers did very well, but our batting let us down, and it was probably the fact that our bowlers had to do so much that led to injuries." Bond will return home to recover from an abdominal strain, while a hamstring injury has made Oram a doubtful starter for the second Test, which starts at Centurion on Friday.
Vettori also admitted that the batting has been a cause for much concern on the tour so far. "The batting has been a bit of a struggle throughout but we've got some really good players and we're hoping we can keep pushing forward. We know that to compete over here we have to keep building big totals."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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