Smith delighted by tenacity

Graeme Smith

SA captain Graeme Smith marshalled his troops effectively in the field © Getty Images

South Africa captain Graeme Smith hailed his side’s battling qualities after they fought back to reach the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals with a comprehensive 124-run victory over Pakistan.

Smith’s decision to bat first seemed to have backfired when they slipped to 42 for five but a 131-run stand between Mark Boucher and Justin Kemp guided them to a competitive 213 for eight.

Man-of-the-match Makhaya Ntini sealed their triumph by claiming 5-21 as Pakistan were dismissed for a lowly 89 in only 25 overs to book South Africa’s place in next week’s semi-final in Jaipur.

“The captain faces a difficult decision at the toss in this competition, but today we took a risk and it paid off and it paid off because the boys showed a lot of character,” enthused Smith.

“It was a great partnership to get us up to that total and then we performed with the ball again.

“We knew that if we could just get one partnership going that there would be one stage of the innings when they would have to bowl their spinners.

“We knew if we could bat at four an over we could get up to 180 or 190 because we had a lot of overs left.”

Smith was also full of praise for strike bowler Ntini, who claimed five of the first six wickets to fall to effectively end Pakistan’s challenge by reducing them to 27 for six.

“He bowled superbly and bowled with a lot of pace,” added Smith. “The wicket was nice and juicy and all the boys cranked it up - we’re going to enjoy our success tonight before we concentrate on the semi-final.”

Pakistan, who were among the favourites for the tournament before drug-taking allegations rocked their squad and deprived them of Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar, will now return home in preparation for their forthcoming tour of South Africa.

“It was like a South African pitch rather than an Indian pitch,” said captain Younis Khan, who was leading the side in the absence of the banned Inzamam-ul-Haq.

“I was happy with the way we started but not the way we finished. We had a good chance when we got them at 42 for five, but Boucher and Kemp played very well.”

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