Proteas: ‘The way we responded was terrific’

2011-11-12 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Severely threatened by a follow-on and possible humiliation just a day earlier, Proteas captain Graeme Smith has hailed the eight-wicket first Test whipping of Australia at Newlands yesterday as “one of the great Test comebacks”.

Smith, who absolutely thrives on fourth-innings challenges and once again raised a firm middle finger, as it were, to his critics by helping lead the surge to victory with an unbeaten century, said that Shane Watson’s bowling performance on Thursday’s dramatic day two had helped his own side suddenly lift their game.

Watson grabbed five for 17 as South Africa crashed to 96 all out in their first innings, but then Proteas debutant and later man-of-the-match Vernon Philander, a not dissimilar type of seamer, even eclipsed that with his own five for 15 as the Aussies were ripped out for a dismal 47 in their second knock.

Smith said, “After lunch yesterday Watson bowled extremely well, got the ball to talk, and we learnt something from it: he was very tight on off-stump and there was probably enough movement either way to create enough chances so we really focused on that, coming out to bowl again.

“The execution and the way we responded was terrific … it’s so easy when you’re some 190 behind to just go through the motions. Twenty one for nine … that was an incredible sight out there.

“We never expected 21 for nine … there’d been some joking about rolling them for 60 or 70 and nobody probably believed it! We showed the team’s character the way we did bowl.

“When we selected Vernon we were hoping for something like this.

“I’ve known Vern for a while and his first-class record has been terrific, especially over the last couple of years.”

Asked whether he coaxes some special extra quality out of himself in fourth-knock pursuits, Smith said, “I think probably I got the best time to bat on day three, with the sun out. There was obviously a bit of pressure, but I’d felt good in my first innings [of 37, the top score] with everything I was working on coming together.

“Today it was about being [stoical] in that first hour and then playing from there — Hashim [Amla, who scored 112] certainly played supremely well and took a lot of the pressure off me.”

The big left-hander admitted he had experienced a “tough six months” of off-season, after having further surgery and then things not especially going his way at the crease. His array of detractors had stayed on his back, too.

SCOREBOARD

Australia first innings 284 (M. Clarke 151; D. Steyn 4-55)

South Africa first innings 96 (S. Watson 5-17, R. Harris

4-33)

Australia second innings 47 (V. Philander 5-15)

South Africa second innings (overnight 81-1)

G. Smith not out101

J. Rudolph c Haddin b Siddle14

H. Amla c Clarke b Johnson112

J. Kallis not out2

Extras (lb-4, w-1, nb-2)7

TOTAL (two wickets, 50.2 overs)236

Bowling: Harris 14-2-67-0, Siddle 12.2-0-49-1 (1nb), Watson

10-0-44-0, Johnson 11-1-61-1 (1nb, 1w), Lyon 3-1-11-0

Player of the match: V. Philander (South Africa)

South Africa beat Australia by eight wickets.

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