Pretoria – Four days later and a crushing defeat by 281 runs to Australia in the first Test at SuperSport Park, in Centurion, South African captain Graeme Smith says he may have erred at the toss.
“To be honest with you, we were very undecided on day one,” Smith said on Saturday.
“Now in hindsight, we would have definitely made a different decision. But we made the decision that the team felt was best.
“In terms what we knew of the wicket ... I don't think we've ever seen the wicket play like it did in this game.”
Smith won the toss on Wednesday and chose to bowl first. Australia took full advantage and plundered 397 runs in the first innings.
It emerged the Proteas decided to bowl first based on statistics suggesting it would be more difficult to bat first.
In reply to Australia's 397, South Africa narrowly avoided the follow-on, scoring 206 and from then onwards, were forced to play catch-up.
Australian captain Michael Clarke said he was pleased to have batted first on the unpredictable wicket.
“A lot of credit to our batters, it was quite a nasty wicket to be honest,” Clarke said.
“I would have hated having to see any team bat on that wicket on day five so, fortunately, it was a nice toss to lose.”
South Africa were on top initially with Australia at 98 for four on the first day, before a 233-run fifth-wicket partnership between Steven Smith (100) and Shaun Marsh (148) took the game away from the Proteas.
“At 100 for four, it was looking like a good decision,” Smith said.
“Ultimately, where we need to look at ourselves and be honest, and say that we were found wanting, was in the skills department.
“If we had played good cricket and had the stamina to take our opportunities, it might be different. But we didn't, and Australia did.”
Smith said the defeat would weigh heavily in the South African changeroom.
“A loss is a loss. It's just very disappointing at this stage.
“I think always in a loss good reflection is needed – making good decisions and finding out how to improve yourself for the next game.”
Smith, however, said there would be enough for his side to work on to be ready to compete in the second Test starting in Port Elizabeth, on Thursday.
“We move to a new part of the country with new conditions and we need to be able to adapt to that,” he said.
“We just need a wise head, good leadership. This side has a lot of good references to fall back on, even though the last four days have been really disappointing.
“There's enough confidence there to help us win the next game.” – Sapa