Smith wants team to lift ahead of tougher tests

Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, admitted his team has a lot of work to do ahead of potentially more challenging engagements against Pakistan in the heat of UAE, and India back home

Liam Brickhill in Potchefstroom
Juan Theron struck twice in the 12th over, South Africa v Zimbabwe, 2nd ODI, Potchefstroom, October 17, 2010

Rusty Theron's experiences in the IPL and Champions League eased his transition to the highest level  •  AFP

As most would have expected, South Africa secured the one-day series in Potchefstroom to follow their 2-0 victory in the Twenty20s. But while their batsmen have feasted on Zimbabwe's bowlers, the hosts' own bowling and fielding have not been on a par with their usual lofty standards. Graeme Smith, the captain, admitted his team has a lot of work to do ahead of potentially more challenging engagements against Pakistan in the heat of UAE, and India back home.
"The little things don't affect your game as much when you're playing against Zimbabwe," said Smith after South Africa's eight-wicket win, "but they do when you're playing in the subcontinent or when you're playing India or England or Australia or Pakistan, which is coming up in Dubai.
"We're not at the standard that we had been at for quite a period of time, and there are a lot of guys that are still trying to find their feet in different positions in the field so we've just got to keep pushing them and hopefully they'll get there. If we can keep training and thinking in the right way, and committing to our skills I think the guys will get there."
Smith did, however, make a special mention of Rusty Theron's "terrific" maiden international five-for. Theron, who finished with 5 for 44, has experienced the South African dressing room before his international debut on this tour - he was part of the World Twenty20 side but didn't get a game - and credited his IPL stint for easing the transition to the top level. "Coming back into the group again it wasn't such an unfamiliar feeling," Theron said. "The guys have been really good in helping me back into the set-up, and that's really helped me settled down.
"Other experience, such as the Champions League and IPL, has given me a lot confidence in the sense of playing against top international players and waging your skills against them. If you were to come straight from normal domestic cricket into international cricket it is a bit more of a challenge, so I've been helped by my experience."
After the final ODI at Benoni on Friday, Smith and his men leave almost immediately for Abu Dhabi where their series against Pakistan begins with two Twenty20s at the Sheikh Zayed stadium on October 26 and 27. Within a month, they will then play five ODIs and two Tests in conditions unlike any most members of the squad have experienced before - the last time South Africa were in the region was a decade ago.
"We haven't been there for ages," Smith said. "Sharjah was the last time we went over to that area, so it's going to be a big learning curve for us in terms of what to expect. We expect it to be quite similar to subcontinental conditions. I think the heat there is going to be a massive factor, and we expect conditions to be similar to what we would get in the subcontinent so hopefully once we get there we'll be able to sum it up pretty quickly."

Liam Brickhill is an Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo