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After defeat, Smith says pitch was below par

"The wicket wasn't up to international standards. It was turning square and kept getting worse," says South Africa skipper Graeme Smith.

india Updated: Oct 17, 2006 19:47 IST

After suffering a humiliating loss against New Zealand in another low-scoring affair at the Brabourne on Monday, the South African skipper, Graeme Smith, blamed the pitch for his team's loss.

"The wicket wasn't up to international standards," Smith said in a post-match media conference. "Batting second was difficult. The wicket deteriorated as the game progress. It was turning square and kept getting worse."

Chasing 196 after electing to field first, South Africa were bundled out for 108. The lack of a good start (they were reduced to 25 for 3) made it worse, he added. "We needed to grind it out and get a partnership going," he said.

In response, New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who was awarded the Man of the Match award for his brilliant 89, said, "I can understand Graeme's comment. The ball was stopping a bit. The pitches are different. The tournament is going to be tough on the viewers."

Speaking about his decision to field first, Smith said, "We looked at the last two games of the tournament and decided to bat second. But it completely backfired on us."

Smith didn't think his batsmen threw away their wickets in at tempting to hit out. "Our shot selection wasn't too bad, it was just that we couldn't get any partnerships going."

Smith, however, was all praise for Fleming's knock of 89. "All credit to Stephen," he said. "He was the core around which they built the innings. His innings made all the difference."

Fleming, on the other hand, said he was scared that they were 25 to 30 runs short. "We would have liked to set a target of 220-225," he said. "We fell short by 25-odd runs because I fell five overs earlier than I should have."

Fleming was delighted to come back to international cricket after a break of more than seven months with a win. "It was good to start with a win," he said. "The bowlers played a key role."