Smith rues flatter pitch on day five
Graeme Smith, South Africa captain, felt that he had the time but not the conditions to bowl India out on the last day of the deciding Test in Cape Town. "I expected more from the wicket today," he said at the post-match press conference. "It didn't have much swing, like we saw on the first three days."
The Newlands pitch began crumbling on day four and was expected to remain tricky for batting. There was variable bounce on offer, which Morne Morkel made us of, while Dale Steyn gave everything he had and more, and succeeded in bowling outswing despite the conditions. Smith said that the two quicks, aided by Lonwabo Tsotsobe, could have used the help of an additional seamer to carry some of the load. "Having the extra seamer is a massive bonus. MS Dhoni has worked the whole series like this [with three seamers]. Having bowlers fresh is obviously nice."
South Africa had to juggle just three pace bowlers because Jacques Kallis' rib injury prevented him from bowling.
Smith was also hoping for a 12th man in the form of the pitch, which had cracks that should have worked to the spinners' advantage, but Paul Harris had no joy at all. "I expected the cracks to play more of a role," Smith said. "If you hit the rough, you got spin, but on the straight there wasn't much."
Even though Smith knew that with the mercury reaching 38 degrees for three successive days the pitch would "become a really good batting unit, as we saw against England last year," he still thought South Africa had the firepower to claim 10 wickets and was "disappointed that we didn't get close today and only managed to have them three down."
Still, he was pleased with how the pitch had behaved over the course of the match. "It's provided really good Test cricket. Compared to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which were roads, it was nice to play a series where everyone had the opportunity to do well."
South Africa have failed to register a series win at home for the third successive season but Smith did not see that as worrying sign. "We've played some good cricket around the world in recent times. You do want to be really strong at home. For two Tests here we played really, really well and for one we were poor."
That one was not the decider, Smith emphasised, but the Boxing Day Test that South Africa lost by 87 runs. "We were really disappointed with the way we played in Durban. There were moments were we needed to fight a little harder and India were better than us in those moments." Smith thought his team bounced back from those lows and laid claim to the key moments in Cape Town when they recovered from 130 for six to reach 362. "We showed a lot of character to get into a position to win."
The fact that they didn't win did not appear to irk Smith too much. "It's good for world cricket that the top four teams are competitive. We don't need to fool ourselves that we are better than what we are." Smith spoke as though a period of assessment for his team had ended and they were satisfied with the result. "The majority of our Test side has been very successful over the last few years."
In some ways, this series does mark the end of an era for the South Africa Test side. It is Corrie van Zyl's last series as coach of the national team. The next series is scheduled for September, against an Australia in decline and there will be a new set-up in place. "The next Test is nine months away and we'll have new coaching staff. Hopefully it will be someone who can challenge us and take us to the next level."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent