South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day January 6, 2012

'Best bowling performance of the summer' - Smith


The deciding Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka swung the way of the hosts as early as the first morning. South Africa were put in to bat and reached lunch on 135 for 2. Before tea on the second day that had become 580 for 4 and the hosts had effectively batted the visitors out of the contest.

Rather than talking up the batting effort, Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, credited his bowlers with fashioning the comprehensive victory. "This was our best bowling performance of the summer," Smith said. "We bowled well as a unit. Yesterday, each guy bowled really well in their spells and we were able to create pressure. It wasn't just one guy bowling outstandingly and picking up seven or eight wickets. All three seamers and Imran [Tahir] worked together in partnerships."

South Africa bowled Sri Lanka out for 239 in their first innings, taking the last eight wickets for 90 runs. After enforcing the follow-on, they managed to nip out four wickets by stumps on the third day and completed the win just after tea on the fourth, sealing their first series win at home since they beat Bangladesh in 2008. They have since drawn home series against England, India and Australia but Smith said they had lacked the ability to close out series.

"We haven't lost too many [series] but we haven't had the killer punch. Durban [where South Africa have lost their last four Tests] was a disappointing moment for us again this summer. It was a big wake-up call for the guys in terms of the standards that we need to produce as a team. But otherwise, the rest has been positive. This win in particular gives us a lot to build on for the year to come."

South Africa embark on a trio of away tours in 2012: they play in New Zealand in February, England in July and Australia in November. Smith said they will draw inspiration from the way they ended the home summer when on the road. "The way we won here was important. We had good partnerships with the bat and the ball, and everything we've been talking about came out strongly."

Although South Africa finished with authority, there are still some unanswered questions about the make-up of their Test squad, particularly with regards to the batting line-up. "At the moment, everyone is finding questions somewhere in a Test match," Smith said. "We just need to build our strength as a team and each guy needs to get strong in his role. There are a few things that need to be cemented."

The same areas that were under scrutiny at the beginning of the series are at the end: the opening berth and the No. 6 slot. South Africa made a change to both for the third Test, dropping Ashwell Prince and moving Jacques Rudolph down the order while replacing him with Alviro Petersen at the top.

Both Petersen and Rudolph had success in their new roles, the former scoring a century and the latter an unbeaten 51. While Petersen fit in seamlessly, Rudolph still has some critics to convince, but Smith said he was pleased with the progress Rudolph made. "I'm sure he was very nervous even though we were in a strong position; you've got to come in and play a certain way. With the changes and everything he must have been nervous and it was great to see him play that way."

The other question mark is the place of Mark Boucher, who did not get an opportunity with the bat at Newlands and dropped a catch in Sri Lanka's second innings. Smith stressed that Boucher is in no danger of being dropped from the team anytime soon, especially not before the tour of England in six months.

"I think that's the first catch I've seen him drop from 10 to 15 metres back. I think he is secure. As a gloveman he has been excellent for us. Overall, in the time that I've played with him, his consistency in taking chances has been excellent. He is ultra-reliable so when he does put down a chance a big thing gets made of it. Going to England, having a really good keeper is going to be the key factor there."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mick on January 9, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    @saforever: You've got it all wrong mate. SA SHOULD have the best record in Tests in the past 5 years but a continual failure to finish teams off means they most certainly do not. Sad to see - particularly for the SA fans - because it's been a horrid waste of a talented group of cricketers. One home series win in, what is it, three years? That's atrocious.

  • Sagar on January 8, 2012, 19:41 GMT

    sa drew aginst eng,aus,ind at home, drew against ind,won against aus and won against eng away. i agree they lost to srl away. but that was a close series might have been 1-1. they needed 1 wkt to win the last test there. if u ask me they have the best record in tests in the last 5 years. bring it on england. we will give u a tough fight , a fight which even aus,ind,etc cant give u at ur home. people talk about us because we are good and we know we are better than GOOD .

  • Hisbullah on January 8, 2012, 10:27 GMT

    hey guys Lankans are more satisfied with their historical victory against SA, its almost impossible to win against the Mighty Fast bowling & Ferrocious Batting of SA in their Home, even in the 3rd test its looked like they were going to lose inning + but their fought hard made SA 2 bat in de 2nd innings, if lankans had put a 200 runs lead, had SA batted on 5th day, SA would hav collapsed against mighty spinning power

    even in de 3rd test against pakistan in UAE pakistan was 85/5 in last day has survived by rain delay otherwise pakistan would hav lost

    similar outcome vs Aussies @ home they came too close in one match then they could not bowld out tail enders

    but their are performing better outside sub continent in comparing with their Asian counterparts

    Philander is a good bowler but he is an over rated than he is what happend to him in the 2 nd test, what about steyn 23 overs no wickets after 2008 highest no of wicket less over by him

    where are you kep wessel, donald

  • Kristy on January 8, 2012, 6:01 GMT

    South Africa will go throuh same sitiuation very soon as Sri Lanka currently going and Aussis just passing. Look how old SA team players are.. most of them are 30- 32+ .. they have well experiaced bawlers and battign line up than SL has.. but still they lost one match. Also SA not that lethal when it comes to batting pitches even in there home..

  • Yashasvi on January 8, 2012, 5:29 GMT

    @Amit Abhishek:

    As per the article: "The same areas that were under scrutiny at the beginning of the series are at the end: the opening berth and the No. 6 slot." "The other question mark is the place of Mark Boucher, who did not get an opportunity with the bat at Newlands and dropped a catch in Sri Lanka's second innings."

    I don't see where you got the message from the article that they think they have solved their batting problems.

  • shiva on January 8, 2012, 3:39 GMT

    its nice to see SA won the series at home after a couple of years. but apart from the captaincy smith need to put some hard work to improve his batting, he had scored four double centuries. so he has the ability to score some thing big.

  • Mike on January 8, 2012, 2:39 GMT

    SA continue to look a quality side, I really can't wait for the ENG V SA series. Where we shall see the two heavyweights of Test cricket clash. Got my tickets for the Leeds Tests, the only shame is it is just a 3 Test series. What a travesty that is, the two best test teams with the two best bowling attacks going head to head. Bring it on, I am predicting a 2-1 series win for England and us to then be the undisputed world number one ! Which leads us next to the India series and the chance for us to prove we can win in India and to spoil the 'revenge' planned by many Indians.

  • josh on January 7, 2012, 23:28 GMT

    Donda r u kidding, Smith got 50 average and sucessful captain in test boucher has only 30 average after 130 test , r u awake?

  • Rob on January 7, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    Irrespective of Boucher being included in the tours of NZ and England, Vilas must stand a very good chance of being selected as a backup keeper batsman. Asking AB to don the gloves in tests is defintely a step too far. Boucher has been a fantastic player for many years, but needs to up all aspects of his game from Durban and Newlands to retain his place.

  • josh on January 7, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    Dilshan made the wrong descion to bowl if he would have batted first Samarewerea would have scored 250+ instead of Kallis , I dont think SA had done anything exceptional , only player I respect in SA is ABD

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