Smith turns attention to India
South Africa finished an epic four-Test series at home to England by retaining the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy and captain Graeme Smith is hoping they can carry the momentum with them to India.
An innings-and-74-run victory in a sometimes fractious final Test at the Wanderers was built on Smith’s first-innings hundred and 14 wickets shared between Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, in conditions that played to the two fast bowlers’ strengths.
Smith is encouraged by yesterday’s outcome and South Africa’s domination of two of the other three Tests in the drawn series.
But he said: “It’s a whole new world touring India. Not many teams go there and prove to be successful.
“Last time we were there, we drew the series 1-1, and we’ve got a few challenges going into those conditions to perform well.”
South Africa faltered only in the second Test against England, losing by an innings at Kingsmead.
Smith believes a short recovery period after a tough series, and then a confident approach, will be major assets on the sub-continent.
“A good, aggressive mindset going into India is always crucial,” he continued. “We’ll prepare well. But it’s been quite a heavy summer, so it’s important that the guys recover - then we can switch on for India.”
South Africa, second in the world rankings just behind India, are likely to once again be playing under the International Cricket Council’s decision review system, which was responsible for its share of controversy against England.
But Smith appears to have warmed to DRS, despite his initial qualms.
“As I said before the series, it was something I was sceptical about,” he said.
“But I think people are losing focus about what it is there for. Teams are certainly trying their luck a lot more but it really is there to take the shocking decision out of the game.
“Maybe if you only had one review, you wouldn’t take so many chances, and possibly that needs to be tightened up.
“We need to keep trialling it and improving it but there were always going to be frustrations on either team. You have to view it in the right light and how it was meant to be used.”
There was no doubt South Africa were the team who finished the strongest against England, and Smith admitted a fifth Test, as there used to be between these two countries, would probably have appealed to him.
“I wish there was a decider now,” he said. “But, again, like the review system, we knew what it was before the series so it’s pointless crying over it.
“I’m just really proud of the way the guys played. We had two debutants (in the final Test) who put in solid performances and we certainly were the team who were hungrier going into this game, and we played that way.
“It shows this team wants to progress and, within the group, there is a real drive to be better.”
Steyn, who had to sit out the first Test with a hamstring strain and perhaps returned to full fitness only in time for the third, finished with a telling 15 wickets in only five innings.
“England was the one side I hadn’t really performed well against and I really wanted to put that right,” he said.
“After not playing at Centurion, I knew I had to lift my game for the remaining three and make a massive contribution.
“But watching Morne bowl throughout the series has been the highlight for me.
“With Makhaya (Ntini) falling away, Morne has stepped up and he’s bowled tremendously.
“I think he deserves all the credit and I have actually been bowling behind him. He’s been the spearhead.”