Amla says sorry to Smith
Johannesburg - As South Africa suffered a humiliating, 93-run defeat to arch-rivals Australia on Wednesday night, the outcome could not have been more different for the two former cricket captains facing each other in the first of three one-day internationals.
Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith was booed by the crowd for another dismal innings as he was adjudged lbw, while his Australian counterpart, Ricky Ponting, was named Man-of-the-Match.
To be fair, Smith did walk across to his captain and batting partner, Hashim Amla, and ask if they should refer the wicket to the Decision Review System (DRS), but Amla said he thought it looked out and decided not to take it further.
On reflection, after seeing the television replays, Smith may have had the decision reversed.
"He asked me what I thought at the time, and I thought it was hitting leg stump," said Amla afterwards.
"I apologised to Graeme as I should have referred it but you have to go on your initial impression and I initially thought it was hitting leg stump."
"I should have known better," said Amla who is captain while AB de Villiers is recovering from surgery to his left hand.
Ponting was more fortunate. By his own admission, it was not his finest innings and he was lucky to survive a couple of chances.
He got an inside edge which went just wide of wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, when his score was on nine, and he also survived an lbw and a caught-behind appeal.
"It wasn't one of my best today and it takes a bit of time to get used to the tempo," said Ponting.
Clarke had tipped Ponting to make a big impression with the bat in both the ODI and Test series on this tour.
"I wasn't aware of that (Clark's opinion) but he's a good judge, isn't he?" he laughed.
Ponting said he had been training hard and had managed to get good time in the middle for his team in Perth.
"It's always nice to get off to a good start and in a small series like this one, a 1-0 advantage always helps.
"The weather and the shortened game also helped us."
Ponting praised South Africa's Lonwabo Tsotsobe and said he was impressed with his use of the new ball.
"Both he and Morne [Morkel] bowled really well and, with their height, they managed to bounce it a bit more."
As a senior member of the team, Ponting said he was relishing the role of mentoring the younger players and was pleased to be able to enjoy his time off the field now that the main responsibilities of the team and the players rest on Michael Clarke's shoulders.
"I'm much more relaxed these days," Ponting said.
"There's a lot going on behind the scenes which you don't necessarily see but I don't have to worry about that anymore.
"I spend a lot of time with the young guys and try and help them and I'm enjoying that role."
Two Australians made their ODI debuts in the match and Ponting said it was a good feeling to see them doing well.
"I thought Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh bowled particularly well today in their debuts.
"It wasn't an ideal start for Paddy, getting hit for six off his first ball but he bounced back.
"They are two exceptional young talents and it was good to see them out there today."
Amla said the track got quicker after the rain and, with the two new balls (in the new rules) in a 29 over match, it meant the ball was new for almost the whole game.
"There was swing upfront which worked in their (Australia's) favour and made it difficult to bat," he said.
"We were two down pretty early which knocked us back and we were unable to recover.
"The last couple of games we haven't managed to string a partnership together and it puts pressure on our lower and middle order.
"Obviously we have to work on it."