Under-pressure South Africa pray for better track
by CricketArchive staff reporter
DateLine: 24th October 2006
South Africa go into their must-win Champions Trophy league match in
Ahmedabad on Tuesday hoping to get a better pitch to counter Sri
Lanka's spin bowling. Graeme Smith's team are under pressure after
losing to New Zealand by 87 runs in their opening Group-B match at
Mumbai on a pitch which came under fire for deteriorating during the
second half of the game.
South Africa were bundled out for 109 in reply to their rivals' 196,
with New Zealand off-spinner Jeetan Patel taking three wickets and
left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori one in their economical spells late in
"The wicket here looks better than what we had in Mumbai and hopefully
it produces a good game of cricket," Smith told reporters on Monday.
South Africa again face a spin-test as Sri Lanka have effective
spinners in Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya, who are known
for making batsmen struggle on helpful tracks.
"Adapating to the pitch is the key for us. Whether you bowl first or
bat first you got to be able to adapt to conditions as quickly as
possible," said Smith. "Sri Lanka have always relied on their slow
bowlers through the middle overs. From 20 to 50 overs they rely a lot
on taking the pace off the ball and it has worked for them over the
last few years. We'd love to have Muralitharan or (Shane) Warne. Any
team in the world would want to have a match-winner of that calibre,
but not every team have one. We have got young spinners and we are
backing them to do well."
The South African skipper said his team had the batsmen to deliver in
the match they needed to win to stay alive in the competition. Sri
Lanka and New Zealand have one win from two matches and Pakistan one
"We cover all areas pretty well in the top eight. We have big-hitters
down the order and strikers at the top. I think we are pretty much up
there with the combination of our batting unit," he said. "Probably the
conditions here will suit Sri Lanka more, but it does not mean we don't
believe we can't beat them. We know we are a quality one-day team
ranked number two in the world. Hopefully, we can show it tomorrow."
Sri Lanka have won four of their five matches, including three in the
qualifying round, and a victory on Tuesday will strengthen their
chances of qualifying for the semi-finals. The top two sides advance to
the next round.
Smith said his team would have to raise the level of their performance
to stop Sri Lanka who looked to be a side in form. "Sri Lanka are
probably the form team in the tournament as they have been playing
since the qualifying round. They have got their combinations right and
most of their players are performing well," he said. "Hopefully, we can
put a good combination that wins us the game tomorrow."
Sri Lanka are fortunate to have in-form openers in Upul Tharanga and
Jayasuriya and a proven match-winner in Muralitharan. Tharanga is the
leading scorer of the tournament with 309 runs in five matches with two
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jawawardene said he was looking forward to an
impressive performance from his spinners on a pitch likely to favour
"All pitches in India probably will assist spinners. We also have
part-time spinners. We played here before against Zimbabwe and the
wicket did turn. Hopefully, it will do the same," said Jayawardene.
"The advantage we have is that we have Sanath, an experienced
campaigner who also bowls spin, and Muralitharan who is something
special. Every game is important. We know it is a crucial game for us.
It's more like a quarter-final and if we get through this I think we
are more likely to get a berth in the semi-finals."