Sharjah – From a practice point of view, the South Africans were able to accomplish what they had planned on the opening day of their three-day warm-up game against Pakistan A at the Sharjah Stadium here on Tuesday.
At stumps on Tuesday the Proteas were 332/5 and were more than delighted with the way their plans had gone, except for Graeme Smith’s failure with the bat.
JP Duminy (49) and Faf du Plessis (25) were at the crease when stumps were drawn. The pair had added 71 in 22 overs.
Smith was the only batsman who did not get an extended run at the crease, but Hashim Amla, who scored a half-century before retiring, said: “He’s too good a batsman to be written off. He may not have scored in the first innings, but there’s still the second innings for him to get into good nick ahead of the opening Test.
“He is far too experienced and has played some wonderful and crucial innings for us in the many Tests he has played for the country.”
Amla said that the Proteas had planned to be at the crease for long periods on the opening day of this three-day game and had in essence achieved their goals.
“It would be correct to say we achieved our goals on the day,” Amla explained.
“We wanted to bat and give as many of the guys an opportunity in the middle. Fortunately everyone managed to get as much out of their time in the middle except for Graeme (Smith), which was rather unfortunate. Everybody is quite pleased to have got the opportunity to bat for a long period.”
Smith, who had been out of the game for almost 21 weeks, desperately needed time in the middle to get his batting rhythm back, and more importantly, test his fitness in conditions which will be similar when the opening Test against Pakistan starts early next week.
Unfortunately for the Proteas skipper, 30 minutes was all he got, scoring just two runs before being adjudged lbw to Pakistan A quick bowler Eshan Adil.
Smith looked a dejected man when the finger went up, and it was not surprising that he was later accompanied to the nets by head coach Russell Domingo for a prolonged session to get him going.
Amla also stated that the batsmen showed that they are hungry and eager to get back into the Test arena after a lay-off of just over six months.
“There’s no doubt the guys are hungry to get back into the Test battles. They showed character in the middle and handled the conditions well. It was hot, but to combat that you need to drink liquids all the time. We will be ready come next week,” he said.
However, there were no real problems for the likes of Amla, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. Like Smith, Kallis has been out of the game for a long period since missing the third Test against Pakistan at SuperSport Park in late February.
Amla played as though he had not had a break while scoring 50 off 90 balls that included five boundaries, but more importantly, he stayed at the crease for more than an hour.
Petersen, who like Amla was also in England during the winter, did not look too fluent at the start. However, when he settled in, he played some stunning shots all around the wicket.
Kallis was undoubtedly the pick of the lot as he played as if he had not been away from the game. He got off to a cracking start by getting stuck into the Pakistan A spinners, who extracted some life out of the drying track, and struck six fours and four sixes in his 99- ball innings.
De Villiers, too, looked comfortable at the crease before being dismissed for 59.
Duminy, who will return to the Test side in Abu Dhabi next week after an 11-month injury break, played an attacking innings towards the end of the day.