Poor batting cost South Africa - Smith
Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, has said their batting, particularly on the second day, cost them victory in the second Test against India in Durban. "We probably lost the Test match on day two. I don't think it was a 131 wicket. Getting bowled out for that just wasn't good enough," Smith said. South Africa bowled India out for 205 in the first innings, on a lively pitch at Kingsmead, before being shot out for 131. The 74-run deficit South Africa incurred proved crucial to India gaining a significant advantage leading up to the second innings.
Smith didn't think India's batting was necessarily better than South Africa's. "It's not like India's batting set the house on fire," Smith said. India were bowled out for 228 in their second innings, just 13 runs more than what South Africa managed in their second attempt. "They got slightly more runs than us, and I guess that's what's needed in Test match cricket."
South Africa went in to the fourth day needing 192 runs to win the match, with seven wickets in hand, a task that did not seem improbable because conditions were getting slightly better for the batsmen. The game was in the balance for most of the match, something that even Smith, who ended up on the losing side, appreciated. "It was tight going into today, and every day the game swung and was tense. That's what people want to see. Nobody wants pounded-out draws."
The closely-contested nature of the match may be why Smith showed few signs of distress after the defeat. He appeared to take heart from the fact that South Africa did not lose by an embarrassing margin. "They did slightly better than us at the key moments, and they won this Test match. We haven't played terribly, but we haven't played to our ability," he said.
South Africa have come under fire for underestimating India after they thrashed the visitors by an innings and 25 runs in Centurion and showed vulnerability on a sporting wicket. Smith dismissed those criticisms, saying his men were prepared for a fight back. "They're a very experienced team. We expected them to bounce back and they have. They played well." He also denied that South Africa were over-reliant on responsive pitches and the toss going the right way. "We hoped for wickets with pace and bounce. That's what we've grown up on. We haven't specifically requested anything."
Smith was not panicking ahead of the series decider which starts in four days time in Cape Town. "It's important not to get too emotional about things. We've played well for a period of time." South Africa have a proud record at Newlands, with nine wins in 14 games since 2000, and Smith was looking forward to the contest. "It's always a great Test match to play in, and being one-all in the series it's going to be even bigger now."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent