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'We have edge over Pakistan'

Graeme Smith feels that victory over Sri Lanka and the present conditions give South Africa an upper hand, writes Subhash Rajta.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 03:28 IST

Cricket is indeed a leveller. One good or bad day in office can change perception within no time.

Pakistan, for instance, were being seen as the team to watch out for after their stunning victory over Sri Lanka in their first match, especially considering the circumstances it came in. The team was high on confidence and optimism.

Then New Zealand humbled them in Mohali on Wednesday. With that one defeat, Pakistan, all of a sudden, are not looking as good. A big chink seems to have appeared in their bowling repertoire.

On the other hand there's South Africa, whom Pakistan play in Mohali on Friday. They looked out of sorts after surrendering to the Kiwis in their opening match.

But then they turned the tables on Sri Lanka, the side that many said was among the frontrunners for the trophy, and are now bubbling with verve. So much so that their skipper Graeme Smith, though admitting that Pakistan were a dangerous side, gave themselves an edge in Friday's contest.

They were going into the match in winning touch, Smith said, and would be more comfortable with the conditions than in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Pakistan, however, are not prepared to give their opponents a psychological edge just because the latter are entering the game on a winning note.

"It's not that we would be under too much pressure on account of the loss we have suffered," said skipper Younis Khan on Thursday. "Winning and losing is a part of the game and the pressure in Friday's match would be nothing in comparison to what it was prior to the first match. We pulled through then, I feel we are good enough to do it again on Friday."

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer refused to see much in his team's defeat against New Zealand. He put it down to committing too many mistakes and not availing of the chances.

The show of confidence and optimism by both the skippers notwithstanding, there is no denying that they have a few issues to address if they are to go beyond Friday's match.

South Africa, to begin with, would be disappointed with the performance of their batsmen so far. They have managed to score just one half-century in two matches and it's only on the strength of their bowling that they have reached thus far.

One could argue they had less than batsmen-friendly surfaces to play on, but even that is not sufficient to explain their insipid show with the bat.

Their skipper, however, doesn't see it as much of a problem. "It's not a big concern," said Smith.

"We have got one of the finest batting line-ups. It's just that we have given away some soft dismissals. We just need to get a start. Hopefully we will get our act together here."

The South African bowling will undoubtedly become even more menacing in these conditions with Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel looking in top form.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have more problems to contend with. The inadequacy in the bowling department was evident in the way the Kiwis hammered runs off it in the last ten overs.

Besides, Pakistan are relying too heavily on the middle and lower-middle order to deliver. The top order, including skipper Younis Khan, have failed to deliver.

It would be interesting to see who comes up with better solutions on Friday.