I would have bowled, says Smith
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I would have bowled, says Smith

Graeme Smith shared a record opening stand with Herschelle Gibbs and then said he would have bowled if he had won the toss.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2004 11:35 IST

South African captain Graeme Smith shared a world record third triple century opening stand with Herschelle Gibbs against the West Indies at Centurion Park on Friday - then said he would have bowled if he had won the toss.

South Africa were 302 for one when bad light stopped play 22.5 overs early on the first day of the fourth and final Test, two balls after Smith was caught behind off Corey Collymore for 139 when the stand was worth 301. Gibbs was unbeaten on 139.

It was a disastrous day for the West Indies, whose captain, Brian Lara, sent South Africa in after winning the toss for the first time in the series.

But Smith said he had never seen so much grass on a Centurion pitch and he would probably have done the same as Lara.

"It was probably a blessing in disguise to bat first because there are some cracks in the pitch and it is already getting a bit up and down after day one. I honestly thought it was a 280 to 300 (all out) sort of pitch," said Smith.

Smith and Gibbs were already the only opening pair in Test history to have posted two stands of 300. They put on 368 against Pakistan in Cape Town in 2002/03 and 338 against England at Edgbaston in 2003.

When Gibbs pushed the ball to mid-off and the pair scampered through for a single to raise the 300 the two players celebrated as though they had reached individual hundreds, congratulating each other in mid-pitch after the run had been completed.

"A 300-run partnership is terrific," said Smith.

"We strive to get big partnerships in the team. It was a great feeling. From about 35 to 40 runs out we knew we were going for it."

Gibbs, who struggled early on against some accurate bowling from Mervyn Dillon, said: "With the amount of grass on the pitch, it was a matter of surviving."

Gibbs, usually a dashing strokeplayer, had only scored 57 when Smith reached his century. He said it was a sign of growing maturity that he had played through a quiet period.

"Maybe a few years ago I would have challenged him in getting the scoring rate up."

The pair put on 301 runs in 300 minutes off 66.5 overs and neither gave a chance.

New batsman Jacques Rudolph scored a single off the first ball he faced but when fast bowler Fidel Edwards was brought back into the attack, the batsmen were offered the light after one more ball. There had been several discussions between the umpires earlier and the floodlights had been on since tea.

The left-handed Smith hit his second century of the series and the sixth of a 21-Test career. He dominated the early part of the stand, reaching his hundred off 125 balls. But Gibbs found his form and unleashed a series of fluent strokes to catch up.

Gibbs, who made his third century in successive matches in the series, scored his 13th career century off 183 balls, with the second fifty made off 66 deliveries.

Smith's 139 was made off 180 balls and he hit 21 fours and two sixes. Gibbs faced 229 balls and hit 18 fours and two sixes.

Lara said before the match that he wanted his bowlers and fielders to match the improvement shown by West Indian batsmen in the series, which South Africa have already clinched with a winning 2-0 lead.

But a reshuffled bowling attack was beaten into submission by Smith and Gibbs, whose record rivals that of statistically the most successful Test opening pair of all time, England's Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, who averaged 87.81 in 25 matches between the first and second world wars. Smith and Gibbs have an average of 83.42 from 18 matches.

The closest the West Indies came to taking a wicket was when Smith was stranded in mid-pitch after a running mix-up. His score was on 23 and the total on 54. Ramnaresh Sarwan fielded at point and ran towards the stumps before flicking under-arm and missing from close range.

Smith had another scare on 89 when he top-edged a pull against Edwards but the ball just cleared a fielder positioned on the boundary and went for six, while Gibbs, on 96, didn't read a googly from Ramnaresh Sarwan and was almost bowled not playing a shot.

First Published: Jan 17, 2004 01:49 IST