Graeme Smith, the South African captain, slammed the pitch at the Brabourne Stadium after his team folded for just 108 and lost to New Zealand by 87 runs, suggesting that the wicket was not up to the mark for an international tournament. "Batting second was very, very difficult," he said. "It's always tough to sit and moan about a wicket when you've lost, but in terms of an international tournament I don't think the wicket was of a good standard today."
Interestingly it was Smith who won the toss and chose to put New Zealand in. He pointed to the much-talked-about dew factor when explaining this decision. "Last year we were here in November and there was a lot of dew," he said. "Dew was a big factor. The wickets played quite well then. This wicket was going through the top, it was turning almost square."
Smith also suggested that his decision to put New Zealand in, one that backfired on him in the end, was based on what he saw of the early matches played in this tournament. "In the first two games the sides which batted first really struggled. In those games it seemed like the ball came on better in the second innings," he said. "Today it was the total opposite. It just deteriorated from 10 overs onwards. The pitch broke up, the ball turned a hell of a lot." He added that captains might need to assess things differently in the rest of the tournament. "We're just going to have to read a pitch, go by the gut feeling on the day and stick by that. I don't think the pitches are going to provide a 100 overs of good cricket."
When Smith was done criticising the pitch he trained his sights on the ICC for the scheduling of matches in this tournament. "It's a bit tough to work that out. You have eight days to the next game and then two games in three days. It could have been spaced a lot better," he said. "Who knows what the ICC's thinking was when they scheduled the games this way. The gap gives us a chance to regroup but ideally we would have liked to be playing a lot sooner than we are."
When asked if his team's shot selection could have been better, Smith said there was little wrong with the way his batsmen played. "I don't think the shot selection was that bad. Some guys could have waited for the ball longer, others went after balls that were there to cut and ended up nicking." he said. "When a wicket's like this you end up changing your whole gameplan and end up missing out on something. I think our shot selection was fine, we just needed to grind a bit more."
In contrast, Stephen Fleming did not slam the pitch as Smith did. "Yes, the pitches are a bit different this time around, from what we usually experience in India. As the tournament progresses, it is going to be tough on the viewers and in this respect I can understand Graeme's complaints. But our job is to play in whatever pitches given to us and play accordingly." And he certainly adapted better than anyone else on the day.
Fleming also conceded that he was not entirely sure that his team had enough runs on the board, but grew more comfortable after seeing how the pitch behaved as the second innings progressed. "I was afraid a bit as we lost nearly five overs in our innings," he said. "We were aiming 220 to 230, which we thought was really competent in this pitch. It was a bit tough to concentrate as wickets were tumbling at regular intervals at the other end. Once we saw the ball stopping a bit off the wicket, we realised that we are in with a chance in this game."
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo