South Africa v India, 3rd ODI, Cape Town January 19, 2011

Smith left to rue missed opportunities

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Two matches, two close defeats, crucial mistakes in the final stages of both matches. South Africa have to be hurting. Batsmen freezing might just be the lesser of the evils. They pride themselves on their fielding, and tonight they dropped two catches they would normally take nine times out of 10. Zaheer Khan got reprieved on nought, Harbhajan Singh on 12, and the duo carried India home. Something similar happened when they were batting: after recovering well from an average start, they slumped from 198 for 4 in 44.4 overs to 220 all out.

Graeme Smith chose to focus on that period - during the end of an innings - that has hurt them the most in this series. "I think 220 gave us a chance. The wicket was very difficult to bat on, had sort of plates on it, and its two-paced nature made strokes very difficult. It also had up and down bounce," he said. "[But] we were really hoping for 240. I think 240 would have been a really good total there. JP [Duminy] and [debutant] Faff du Plessis played well together to take us to a decent total [rescuing them from 90 for 4]. Our Powerplay was poor again, we lost JP and Faff within two overs, and we only got 19 overs in our last six overs.

"I really felt if we got 240 we were in with a real good chance of winning the game. We came real close, we missed two crucial chances at the back end, but I can't fault the guys' commitment tonight, their intensity and the effort they gave."

The commitment was of course there, in the way Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn bowled, in the way they caught, Steyn off his own bowling and Morkel at third man. Also pleasing was how - despite an expectedly nervous start - du Plessis made it easier for the selectors to pick him for the World Cup.

"Terrific to see a guy like him come in," Smith said. "He had a good domestic season, and just to carry that on here is good. He has prepared well, I have watched him in training. He will bring a lot to the squad I think. It was great to see him and play that well. Especially under pressure. We were under pressure when he came in. I think he has something special, which is good."

Smith said the key to bouncing back from such close defeats in back-to-back games was to not change what has been working for them. "I think it's always important to keep doing the right things at training," he said. "Keep reiterating the same point. The margins have been so small in the last two games, we could easily be 2-1 up or 3-0 up. Just got to keep training hard and keep doing the right things and hopefully the things will kick into place.

"The World Cup squad comes out tonight, that will ease a lot of minds and stress on players. Hopefully free up a lot of players, and make them play with sort of freedom in the next few games."

They will need all the freedom because the opposition - an under-strength one at that - is sensing they are under pressure. "Our team is full of confidence right now," Yusuf Pathan, Man of the Match tonight, said. "South Africa will obviously be under pressure because they have lost two matches, and we have done better in pressure situation. We made a comeback in the previous game, and here too. So the pressure will be there."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hellraiser9 on January 21, 2011, 10:10 GMT

    During 99 and 00;s there were so many matches which India could have won if those ifs and buts were taken into consideration. but that is life ..move on . smith has always something to complain about. The way he spoke during the first test match and even during the toss at second goes to show how lightly he has taken Indian team. With two deadly bowlers like steyn , morkel ..he should have done lot better.. take the case of albie morkel.. the way dhoni used him in IPL and champions league was simply awesome.. dhoni was smart captain and smith has to learn from mistakes ..if you dont knwo how to use deadly weapons in your arsenal then you will always end up in losing side..dhoni should play yusuf more and rohit less ..then indian team will be even more deadly and much more stronger.. right now selection of playing X1 is the only weakness of indian team ..hope dhoni picks right players and NOT rohit he should be kicked out NOW..

  • dummy4fb on January 21, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    Best Indian 11 in world cup

    1.Tendulkar 2.Sehwag 3.Kohli 4.Raina 5.Yuraj 6.Dhoni 7.Pathan 8.Harbajan Singh 9.Praveen Kumar 10.Zaheer Khan 11.Munaf Patel

  • Rameez_06 on January 20, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    i jst went thru a few comments my freinds have put up .. well first of all congrats to India in their recent victories in SA agnst d home team .. have to admit dey hav been doin exceptionally well under pressure .. n none oder dan yousuf has been standing out in doing so for india in d recent past ... m sure v al have got to see a new side of him n d way he has played recently .. he seems to b more responsible n takes on d bowlers wen its necessary .. pray dat he is consistent in wat he is doin .. cz his current form can b very handy if India hav to go on n win d WC .. muskhad told yusuf shud b played in case of injuries to one ofda 11 he mentioned .. i gues he has forgotten d innings tusuf came up wid NZ recently dis year wen most of d name in his top order were bak in d pavilion n India were down to 5 wkts widin 100 runs .. his 123 of 79 balls cant b overseen .. m sure yusuf wil b in d playin 11 .. no matr who oder wud hav to sit out ..

  • Dev_Kumar on January 20, 2011, 15:03 GMT

    Well done india without big player

  • KricketWicket on January 20, 2011, 13:52 GMT

    I am a Indian cricket fan currently residing in London. I have been following the Indian team on Sky Sports over the last several years. When India tour outside, Sky Sports get their coverage from foreign broadcasters (e.g. the India's tour of Australia in 08 was from Channel 9 and the current SA series is from the local SA broadcasters). What I have observed is the shocking double standards of foreign commentators when they talk about Indian players in these channels and what these very same commentators say when they are commenting in an Indian channel or in the IPL. Apparently, no Indian batter can play pace & is made to look like a pussy cat. When their own batsmen get beaten then it has got to do with the pitch and everything else under the sun. If an Indian batter hits sixes, its cause of their massive bats (as if their players all use thin bats). The double standards, and hatred of India is unbelievable. These shameless commentators also want contracts with IPL and Indian TV.

  • dummy4fb on January 20, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    It amuses me how people are stressing on the fact that 'a life' was given to several Indian batsmen. What about the missed run out of Duminy by Yusuf Pathan? If not for that, I highly doubt if South Africa would've crossed a 150 mark. So, if we are to believe that India won because of 'luck' and bad fielding by SA players, I suggest you retract to that moment where Duminy would've walked back to the pavilion with a paltry score next to his name. It's all about holding your nerve and seeing your team through. It's not about losing and then complaining about how lucky the opponents were, it's more about how incapable SA were, as a team. And it's a known fact how the SA team develop butter fingers the moment one of the opponent player defies their scheme and attack. Walking into the field with a plan B is quite necessary for a team like SA. At this rate, I highly doubt if they'd even manage to enter the knockout stages of WC 2011.

  • muskhad on January 20, 2011, 12:01 GMT

    ya.. india is doing well in the absence of four imp players like...sachin,viru, gauti,and praveen....yosuf pathan batting has been very good...this shows that he is capable outside the sub continent....my wishing eleven to play in the wc......is 1.sachin2.viru.3.gauti.4.kohli.5.yuvraj.6.dhoni.7.raina.8.harbhajan.9.prav.10.zaheer.11.nehra/munaf........ in my view pathan need not be in the eleven...because you have bhaji and yuvi as a good all rounders... even raina and sehwag can bowl well... also there is no space for pathan in the team....you cannot refuse one of the first seven ....so if anyone gets injured or if someone finds poor form.... yosuf can replace him.

  • blaster_boy on January 20, 2011, 11:56 GMT

    when wil be the fight between india and england. we have to show Daren Gaugh ... who says that tthey can beat india.., seven days in week... lol .

  • crimsonbull on January 20, 2011, 10:23 GMT

    G. Smith ODI iQ 6 out of 10. Replace him with Kallis

  • landl47 on January 20, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    For some reason, the fact that South Africa continually fails to win games and series that it should win is not put down to Smith's captaincy. Yet the team has been underachievers the whole time he has been captain. Now and again they show what they can do, but for the most part as a team they just don't live up to their individual reputations. To my mind, that comes down to leadership. If they don't reach the finals of this WC, Smith should be axed and a new leader given the task of sorting out the attitude of the team. Maybe Amla might be the man for the job?

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