India in SA
AB faces Smith conundrum
Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Despite a stunning 141 run victory over India at the Wanderers on Thursday, the Proteas are facing a selection conundrum with Graeme Smith facing a spell on the sidelines.
Quinton de Kock produced a man-of-the-match performance as he bludgeoned his way to 135 runs from 121 balls, and could be closing the selection door on the newly out-of-favour Smith.
South African captain AB De Villiers said it would only be on a batsman-friendly wicket where he would even consider slotting in the former captain.
"It was tough, I had a look at the wicket," said De Villiers after the game.
"I was very keen to play seven front-line batters. But after looking at the wicket we felt like another seamer would be very handy, which proved right.
"That kind of wicket will probably come around and he'll get his chance."
Hashim Amla (65 runs off 88 balls) and De Kock batted three balls short of the first 30 overs for a 152 run partnership. A return to the opening role for Smith seems increasingly unlikely.
De Kock also provides the aggressive left-handed option which compliments the measured approach of Amla.
De Villiers, however, said Smith would have to keep working to make a return to the side.
"At the end of the day, Quinny [De Kock] and Hash [Amla] are working really well together so there just wasn't a spot open for him [Smith]. The way I know Graeme, I know he'll keep working hard.
"He knows I'm a captain that is very fond of playing seven batters."
The prospect of Smith batting outside the opening role would be difficult to imagine, and the solution would perhaps lie in shifting De Kock to the number three batting role, according to De Villiers.
"It's a tough question that.
"I can't see him [Smith] batting anywhere else than opening. I feel Quinny will adapt a bit better batting at three. Especially with the two new balls, you always seem to lose a wicket up front. It didn't happen today, but more often than not you'll face the new ball and I feel Quinny has the game to adapt."
Indian captain MS Dhoni, meanwhile, said it was just a bad performance by his side which led to the massive margin of defeat.
"Overall, it was a bad performance, I don't think this was a 300 plus wicket," Dhoni said.
"We didn't get the start we needed. Maybe the bowling was slightly worse than the batting, if anything."
While the South Africans got off to a rocketing start in the first 10 overs, India, the top-ranked One Day International (ODI) side in the world, was pegged back by a superb stint of fast bowling by Dale Steyn.
Steyn beat the bat on several occasions, and started off his day with two maidens in a row.
"That spell by Dale Steyn was crucial, he knew the right area to bowl," Dhoni added.
"They've got fantastic bowlers. We'll just have to step up overall."