Smith Slams Chennai Pitch, Happy with Tahir Show

Chennai, Feb 13 (IANS) "Under-prepared", "slow" and "dead" was how South African captain Graeme Smith described the pitch at the refurbished M.A. Chidambaram Stadium where the Proteas strolled to an eight-wicket win against Zimbabwe in a cricket World Cup warm-up game Saturday.

"The wicket was pretty slow and dead. Yet, Morne Morkel, who bowled well in Indian series back in South Africa, had carried the form here. I was standing in the slips and I must say that he manage to hit the deck well," said Smith.

"The wickets probably will get slower and slower. Tonight, there were a few things. There was quite a lot of dew out in the atmosphere and it is a bit disappointing when a lot of day-night games are played in these conditions," he added.

It was hardly a surprise that Zimbabwe opted to have their spinners open the bowling when the South Africans began their chase.

Coach Alan Butcher said: "That has been part of the strategy for last year for us. I will be surprised if before the end of the tournament other sides are not doing it. It is a ploy that has been used in previous World Cups. I feel the conditions here will be very suitable for it."

Smith heaped praise on rookie leg-spinner Imran Tahir, a Pakistani by birth who recently acquired South African citizenship.

Tahir returned with a three-wicket haul in 8.5 overs and looked quite impressive given his relative inexperience.

"The wicket was a little bit under-prepared. It was Imran's day. He is naturally a tough guy, but was perhaps little bit tense today. He started to be more consistent in length and was more confident on what he was doing.

"For me, it was nice to see the guy making good use of the opportunity. He gave himself a platform to bowl on now," said Smith.

His counterpart, Elton Chigumbura, said Tahir bowled tight, but the Zimbabwe batsmen often played down the wrong line leading to their cheap dismissals.

Butcher said: "I have seen quite a lot of Tahir in English county cricket. I know he is a quality bowler. I am sure he will have an impact on the World Cup competition."

Regarding Jacques Kallis, recovering from a rib injury and who scored an unbeaten 49, Smith said that he would prefer to preserve the all-rounder for the World Cup rather than rushing him to bowl.

"As I had said earlier, we do not want to slide back to the player he was a couple of weeks ago. We still need to preserve him for bowling as we need him for another six weeks," he said.


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