Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
“I think we as a team have to support the decision Dale and Vernon made in the middle”
Even after his own team-mate, Faf du Plessis, stated that South Africa should have gone for the win during the first Test against India in Johannesburg, Proteas captain Graeme Smith noted that it “was in the best interest of the team” to save the Test match instead of looking to go down in history as the side who chased down the highest Test score.
However, many people still remain stumped about why South Africa did not go for the win when they only needed 16 runs off three overs.
“Ultimately the guys out in the middle, what they thought was in the best interest of the team,” Smith explained. “Morne [Morkel] struggling to stand really. And Immy [Imran Tahir] – he would probably say himself that you are not too sure what you are going to get from Immy. I think we as a team have to support the decision Dale and Vernon made in the middle.”
Smith also revealed that no messages were sent to Vernon Philander or Dale Steyn about saving the match or giving them the green light to go for the win.
“You can’t send out messages between overs,” Smith said. “That is not allowed.
“The message was to set it up for the last over. Then there were a couple of maidens bowled, which made it difficult. I think ultimately we needed to give Vernon an opportunity to win us the game. I think he was the guy that probably would have done that. It never happened.
“Ultimately the strength of this team is that there are good decision makers. Each guy is mature. They’ve made great decisions over a period of time which have won cricket games for South Africa. I think that’s how we have got to No. 1 – by trusting each other and trusting each others’ decision making. Dale and Vernon have 100% support from me.”
When asked if he was gutted to have missed out on chasing the highest Test score in history by eight runs, Smith said: “Guys, if you want me to say that I disagree with what Dale and Vernon did, I am not going to say that. I think I have answered that question enough today. I think I have covered that.”
Meanwhile, du Plessis reiterated that he would have tried to go for the record, but defended Philander and Steyn’s decision to keep the team in the hunt of winning the series.
“In a two-Test series, with one match to go, there is an opportunity to go and win the series in Durban,” du Plessis said. “We have to believe in the decision that Dale and Vernon made.”
Du Plessis also admitted that he never thought the Proteas would have come this close to chasing down their target of 458 runs.
“Even at lunch today I don’t think we believed we will get as close as we did,” he said. “We were just playing. That was our chat this morning. To make sure we build a partnership. We knew, to save the game we would have to have a session without losing wickets. We got that after lunch. We played it beautifully.
“From day two we have been behind the game. I don’t think many people gave us a chance to be in this position. As a team, we showed the mental strength and the ability to handle pressure and the ability to understand what needs to be done.
“We saw two of the greatest innings played in recent history. I think we need to appreciate the effort. I hope people through the emotion of wanting more always can see and respect the efforts that the team has certainly put in. We fought hard, and were able to show enough skill to get something out of this game. The fact that everyone is talking about Test cricket, the fact that everyone is talking about this game, is wonderful for the game of cricket. It will certainly go down as one of the great games.”