India v South Africa, World Twenty20, Trent Bridge

Smith thrilled as variety shows

Andrew McGlashan at Trent Bridge

June 16, 2009

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Johan Botha picked up 3 for 16, India v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Trent Bridge, June 16, 2009
South Africa's variety, including the spin of Johan Botha, has been a key to their success © Associated Press

There is no such thing as a meaningless victory in a tournament that is so much about momentum. South Africa maintained their 100% record at the ICC World Twenty20 as they defended 130 on a crumbling surface against India at Trent Bridge to set themselves up for a semi-final against Pakistan.

Twice in this event South Africa have fought hard for victories in dead matches where it might have been understandable if intensity had dropped. However, there is a ruthlessness about their performances which is clinical, but it is the way they have adapted to various conditions that has been most impressive.

When the pitch has had pace Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell have excelled, when the surface has been full of runs the batsmen have done their job and, in the biggest development from previous South Africa teams, when spin has been key they have responded through Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe.

Graeme Smith wasn't thrilled by the surface, and hoped the semi-final pitch wouldn't be so in favour of the spinners, but was pleased that his side had produced a strong workout.

"We've had a few different challenges," Smith said. "It was disappointing with the strokeplayers on both teams that the wicket wasn't better, especially considering they haven't had game here for a few days. But it was nice for us to play on a surface like this and beat India on a surface like this.

"It's great to have the variety coming through in the team. We are still very young in terms of international cricket since readmission so it was always going take time to get the structures in place to produce these players, especially spin bowling on the wickets at home."

South Africa have found consistency in a format where inconsistency is often the winner (just look at England's tournament) with seven victories on the bounce. "All our plans have come off and to win seven games in a row is a great effort in this format of the game," Smith said. "I think it shows that we might have taken our game to another level. We are very flexible and can adapt to each situation which is very exciting."

However, and here comes the spoiler, now that the tournament has reached the knock-out stage it could suddenly all come to nothing. South Africa, should anyone need reminding, don't have the best history of holding their nerve, although this side is doing its utmost to shed that burden.

"For us to be in a final would be terrific but realistically we have to think about Thursday first," Smith said. "I think we've proven we have enough flair and enough options to be an all-round package and that's what we've played like. We've faced many different challenges, batting first, defending low totals, so I think we are a well-rounded team going into the semi-finals.

"We played Pakistan in the warm-up game and beat them on the surface. We've got respect for their players, but if we play our game Pakistan are going to have to play well. That's our challenge, but we are a good enough team to adapt.

"This team has come a long way and we have proven that with the results we have put out over the last two years. Thursday is a semi-final and anything can happen, Pakistan are a talented team and will arrive expecting to beat us. No matter who is favourite it's about who plays better on the day."

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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