Cricket: Smith - I didn't expect NZ to bat first

By David Leggat in Cape Town

South Africa celebrate the wicket of Dean Brownlie. Photo / Getty Images
South Africa celebrate the wicket of Dean Brownlie. Photo / Getty Images

South African captain Graeme Smith admitted he was surprised by New Zealand's calamitous decision to bat first in the three-day test which ended at Newlands today.

New Zealand were bowled over for 45, their third lowest test total and that set the stage for South Africa's easy innings and 27-run win before tea on day three.

Smith confirmed he would have bowled first had he won the toss.

"I was a bit surprised but I've been caught 50-50 at the toss sometimes," Smith said.

"I think the confident decision is often to bat. I didn't expect New Zealand to front up (bat first) on day one to be honest."

He said the pitch is known for giving help to the seamers in the opening session and that this strip had a little more moisture in it than others he'd seen at the ground.

Smith praised his world class seamers, headed by man of the match Vernon Philander and world No 1-ranked Dale Steyn, who bowled "superbly".

"In both new ball spells we were excellent in terms of the areas we hit. We asked those questions early on."

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum praised the determination of centurymaker Dean Brownlie - whose 109 was described as "excellent" by Smith - and wicketkeeper BJ Watling who stuck to the job through the third morning, before Brownlie threw his wicket away in the penultimate over before lunch.

"Dean was brilliant. It was a high quality innings that in the circumstances was fantastic for him and hopefully is the start of a very successful career for him," he said.

McCullum said it was important New Zealand grasped the positive aspects of the test - "the way we responded on the second day, firstly with the ball then getting through to 160-odd for four was a remarkable improvement form the previous day.

"We've seen that we can put some pressure on them if we can do those hard yards up front."

New Zealand will now regroup ahead of the second test starting in Port Elizabeth on Friday. Putting aside the memory of that first day at Newlands will be a challenge.

"It hurts immensely. We've got a very disappointed bunch of lads," he added.

It was South Africa's 22nd test win over New Zealand in 39 clashes.

- NZ Herald

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