Smith happy with South Africa improvement
South Africa have been forced to experiment this series, with Jacques Kallis's calm head missing from the top of the order, and captain Graeme Smith unable to rely on the menace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel with the ball due to a slew of injuries.
But an authoritative 64-run win in the first one-day international against Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein has eased worries about South Africa's second string, and Smith urged the newer members of the squad to make the most of their opportunities and "make those positions their own".
"You've got two guys [Morkel and Steyn]", explained Smith. "One has bounce and he can hit 145 km/h, the other has swing and can hit 140 to 150km/h. They are wonderful assets to have. At the moment we don't have that, but it's an opportunity for guys to still get their skills right."
"Some of these guys are going to be performing in the next games, and when those guys are back and fit these guys will be looking to stake claims, so it's important that they show their worth."
While Smith made sure to mention David Miller's expressive half-century - which came from just 30 balls and included five fours and two enormous sixes - he held special praise for the stellar knock from Colin Ingram. He became the first South African - and the sixth batsman overall - to strike a century on ODI debut and his aggressive 124 boosted South Africa's total well out of reach.
"I think he [Ingram] was pretty nervous walking in today, but he remained calm and stuck to his game plan. He's done a lot of work at domestic level, and he was able to bring that here. He trusted himself out there today and that's an important mindset to have. If you put the work in, it's about going in there and allowing yourself to trust yourself, and I think that was quite evident today."
Smith confirmed that South Africa will be without Morkel's services at least until the final game of the series in Benoni on Friday and suggested there were times at which South Africa's replacement bowlers let Zimbabwe's batsmen dictate terms. Nevertheless he insisted that the bowlers had, on the whole, progressed from their unconvincing performances in the Twenty20s.
"It's always difficult to rate a performance like that," said Smith. "We put 350 on the board, but it was a very quick outfield and a beautiful batting wicket. I think in patches with the ball we were very good. There were times we drifted a little bit. Maybe the first ten overs was an area we were a little bit loose.
"We let them get away a bit but from then until about the 35th or 36th over I thought we were very good. From there, once you realise a team is not being competitive anymore it makes it a little bit tough in the cold like that. There are always things to improve on, but compared to Sunday's bowling performance, it was a lot better."
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo