Smith praises dominant performance
Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, paid tribute to his team for a "dominant performance" after their innings-and-25-run win over India in the first Test in Centurion. "We controlled the game throughout the five days," he said. "We were ahead of the game the whole time."
South Africa put in a superior performance and there was only one passage of play in the Test where they felt under threat - during Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni's 172-run seventh-wicket stand on day four. "That was the one time that we really put in the yards. The wicket flattened out a lot, it was hot and windy and the guys showed a lot of character in that situation, especially Dale's spell at the end," Smith said. Steyn clocked close to 145kph to remove Dhoni late in the afternoon and swing the advantage firmly in South Africa's direction, a position they held from the first session of the first day.
MS Dhoni, India's captain, placed a lot of importance on the toss and the way the pitch played during the first two sessions on day one but Smith thought it was a case of too much hype. "I don't think the wicket actually did that much. For a wicket that was under covers for four days, I thought it would do a bit more." He added that the expectation of a bouncy wicket, and not the wicket itself, may have been what undid India. "In my mind, I think India expected more from the wicket than what actually happened. They were tentative and were on the back foot a lot of the time."
Although the pitch was thought to have played a big role on first day, with India losing nine wickets in 38 overs, Smith said most of the credit belonged to his bowlers. "Our bowlers bowled well. When you bowl on a wicket that you think is going to do a bit, you've got to get the ball in the right place. We were very controlled." Lonwabo Tsotsobe was the only bowler that India could pick on but Smith did not label the left-armer the weak link. "He's inexperienced, he has to grow as a cricketer and we have to give him the tools to do that."
The main battle of this No. 1 versus No.2 ranked Test teams has centred on South Africa's bowling against India's batting and after the first match, it's clear that South Africa won the tussle by some stretch. South Africa have not forgotten about the lesser clash, between their batsmen and India's bowlers and Smith said it's important that the line-up doesn't take for granted that India did not manage to bowl them out once.
"Who knows how the wicket will play in Durban? There's been a lot of rain there around this period also. We've got to be realistic," Smith said. Kallis talked up the Kingsmead pitch as the one that offers "the most bounce in South Africa" and it's also become known for its swing. With Zaheer Khan likely to spearhead the line-up, South Africa will face a different threat to the one they had in this match. Smith thinks they have done a good job at adapting to bowlers on various pitches over the years. "We'd like to think we are a strong, powerful batting unit and we can cope with conditions wherever we go."
India will look to prove they too have a similar batting unit after a match in which everyone except Tendulkar and Dhoni underperformed. Dhoni said the focus will be on levelling the series in Durban, before entertaining any thoughts of how they are going to win it from this position. Smith had said India were under pressure from before the first Test, now he thinks they face even more strain. "When you go 1-0 down in a three match series, there's always extra pressure. The build-up to the next Test becomes crucial - the decisions you make, how you train, the selection, how the squad moves to the next Test. I know the Indian team always plays under pressure, and there are high expectations on them."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent