Smith: 'I love winning Tests'

South African captain Graeme Smith was delighted with his team’s four-wicket victory over New Zealand in the third Castle Lager Test at the Wanderers on Sunday, but cautioned that South Africa still had work to do.

South Africa wrapped up the win an hour after tea on the third day, with Shaun Pollock hitting the winning runs. South Africa also won the first Test in Centurion, while the second Test, in Cape Town, ended in a draw.

“I love winning Tests,” he enthused at the post-match press conference. “It’s also nice to win a series again.
I think a 2-0 victory is pretty convincing and we’re very proud of a lot that has gone on in this Test series.

“Makhaya [Ntini] and Dale [Steyn] have been outstanding in this series. I think we are also battle-hardened after losing five-nil to Australia. And I think that on the kind of pitches we’ve been playing on, the battle-hardened teams and the key performers under pressure have come through.”

Smith said he had mixed feelings about the season that had just ended. “We’ve had so many highs, but most of them have been in one-day cricket. We had an incredible series win against Australia, in that awesome game here at the Wanderers.

“But in Test cricket, the five Tests we lost to Australia were disappointing. But disappointing as they were, we were closer than it seemed.

“We let ourselves down in a lot of areas, where we know we could do better. It’s important to learn from those things and next season get better and better, and take ourselves forward.

“We’ve learnt quickly, and made things count here in this series,” he added. “We’ve been calmer under pressure and we won the crucial moments. Against Australia, we perhaps didn’t have the confidence to take those key moments, but in this series, we had the confidence to do it.

“It’s a nice way to end the season, and it will help us enjoy the off-season even more.”

His New Zealand counterpart Stephen Fleming was visibly disappointed at the outcome of the series.

“We came here to win the series, and we weren’t able to do that,” he said. “South Africa won the crucial stages. I think the difference between us was about 10 kms of pace -‒ Makhaya and Dale were superb. I think perhaps the lack of pace in our team was a contributing factor to our losing the series.

“But I think the main thing is that at key times, both with bat and ball, we’ve been below par.”

Both captains agreed that that although they would be playing some Test cricket over the next season, the focus would be on one-day cricket, with a view to the ICC Champions Trophy in India later this year, and the World Cup in the West Indies next year.

South Africa have a couple of months break before travelling to Sri Lanka for two Tests and five one-day internationals (ODIs) in Sri Lanka. India will tour South Africa at the end of the year for three Tests and five ODIs, followed by Pakistan, who will play seven ODIs as part of the preparations for the World Cup. - Sapa

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