Sharjah – Graeme Smith has declared himself fit and ready to lead South Africa in the first Test against Pakistan, starting next Monday in Abu Dhabi, despite not having had a decent batting session during the drawn three-day warm-up game against Pakistan A at the Sharjah Stadium on Thursday.
The 32-year-old South Africa captain surprisingly did not bat for a second time – he faced just 15 balls in the first innings while scoring two runs – and put to rest the notion that his recent surgery was of any concern, but rather a precaution to not overwork him ahead of next week’s Test.
“No, I have no problems with the injury. I’m just following protocols of the workload that I have done over the period of time, and I’ve been listening to the medical team,” Smith said in the post-match press conference.
“It’s just a management process for me, rather than anything else. I had major surgery six months ago and my workload in the past five days had been stepped up. I’ve been following the programmes that have been placed for me so that I can get on to the field on Monday,” he said.
“My ultimate goal is to lead the team out in the Test match, and to maximise my opportunities there. I have done a lot of work behind the scenes. Obviously I would have loved to have batted a little longer on day one, but it wasn’t to be. I have been in these situations many times before in my career, but it’s all to do with the mental side of the game. So I’m looking forward to the challenge in getting myself ready for Monday.”
The South Africans spent long periods out in the blazing sun and were faced with the high humidity that came with it.
They batted all day on the opening day, scoring 354/8 while Pakistan A, who had planned to bat as long as possible, had Smith’s team on the field for 100 overs before declaring their first innings at 311/6 shortly before lunch.
In their second innings, JP Duminy (23) and Faf du Plessis opened the batting – putting on 37. Du Plessis retired on 42 while Robin Petersen (16), Vernon Philander (11 not out) and Morne Morkel (14 not out) also had a spell in the middle.
And though there was not as much success with the ball as there was with the bat – four of the Proteas scored 50s – Smith said he was satisfied with the work that the squad had put in before the first Test.
“The one thing was getting used to the heat – I believe we’ve done that. While we have been here we had two very tough training sessions and lots of other work – fitness stuff has been done in the heat, and a fair amount of acclimatising. All of us are feeling a little more settled in the heat than we were three or four days ago.
“We have been process-driven, and it’s been about getting our workload under our belts more than pushing towards the intensity to win games (warm-up ones). We are getting the practice done while making sure that we walk away knowing that we have achieved something.
“Our great strength has been the ability to step it up going into big games, especially big series of late, and I’d like to think we’d be able to do that going into the first Test.”