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Lara heartened despite defeat

Brian Lara said he was heartened by his team's performance despite a 189-run defeat against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2003 20:45 IST

West Indian captain Brian Lara said he was heartened by his team's performance despite a 189-run defeat on the fifth day of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium on Tuesday.

South African opening bowlers Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini took four wickets each as the West Indies were bowled out for 188 in mid-afternoon having been set 378 to win.

"West Indies teams I have played for in the past, especially over the past five or six years have normally crumbled way before the last day," said Lara.

"This is a lot better. We are maturing and playing a lot better as a team. We can take a lot of confidence from this. We know exactly what the South Africans are coming with and we head to (the second Test in) Durban with a lot to work on."

He said he did not believe his current team would suffer the fate suffered by the side he led to South Africa in 1998/99 when they were beaten in all five Tests.

"We can only improve on this performance. Five years ago we were heading downhill even before the first Test."

Lara said the toss had played a crucial role on a pitch which deteriorated under a baking sun.

"It was really difficult. The toss played a very big role. It was unfortunate we lost the toss. If the shoe had been on the other foot, maybe we would have seen a different result."

For the third match in a row the West Indies finished without 11 fit players.

Opening batsman Chris Gayle, who had also been due to be the team's main spin bowler, suffered a torn hamstring while fielding on the first day and could not field again.

Instead of opening the batting, he batted at number nine in the first innings and number eight in the second.

Lara said a new regulation by the International Cricket Council which could make captains liable for suspension due to slow over rates had put pressure on him from the start of the match.

With Gayle injured, he had to rely mainly on fast bowlers and it was difficult to get the over rate up to the required 15 an hour.

He admitted that in the last hour and a half of the South African second innings he had used medium-pacer Wavell Hinds and part-time spinner Ramnaresh Sarwan in order to improve the over rate.

"We knew for a fact we were going to get a total to chase and we needed to get our over rate up. We didn't need to be playing without our captain in the next Test," he said.

Despite the tactic he said he had been fined ten percent of his match fee.

It was later revealed that in addition to Lara being fined, the other players in the team lost five percent of their fee, while South African captain Graeme Smith was fined 30 percent of his fee and his players 15 percent.

Smith said he also had difficulty in managing the over rate and said the ICC should look again at its rules.

"It was very hot, we were using mainly seam bowlers and we were not trying to slow the game down," he said.

"I can understand if a captain is fined for deliberately slowing things down but there needs to be a bit of leeway."

Smith disagreed with Lara about the standard of the pitch.

"I thought it was a good Test wicket. It obviously cracked up a bit towards the end which made batting more difficult but with the amount of heat around it was going to be hard to keep it together for five days."

The South African captain preferred to dwell on what he described as "a fantastic team performance".

Smith said South Africa's powerful batting on the first day, when they hammered 368 runs for three wickets, had set up the match for his team.

Man of the match Makhaya Ntini, who had match figures of nine for 147, said he had started to think about getting his second ten-wicket haul of the year.

"I was counting every ball," he said of Shaun Pollock's final over of the match. Pollock claimed the last wicket with the last delivery.

The second Test starts in Durban on December 26.

First Published: Dec 16, 2003 20:45 IST