Castle Lager Proteas captain, Graeme Smith , has admitted that his team was outplayed in the first Test against Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The Proteas failed to show the skill and character that has been associated with the team in the last two years and fell to a seven-wicket loss against the sixth-ranked Pakistan side.
"Every time you come to the sub-continent as a Western nation you always have a degree of stress," Smith said at the press conference after the match. "Pakistan have played well in these conditions of late, I have to say that they have outplayed us, so it’s very disappointing."
Smith refused to put any blame to the team's preparation, which included a three-day warm-up match and 10 days in the UAE.
"I think we have maximised the preparation time that we have had," Smith said. "It’s always difficult to replicate Test matches when you haven't played one in six months. We came together after the Champions League and the guys have worked extremely hard and always knew this would be a tough tour after a long lay-off."
The Proteas have scheduled an optional training session in Abu Dhabi for Friday morning, and will use the upcoming preparation week for discussions aimed at improving tactics and skills ahead of the second match starting in Dubai on Wednesday.
"We are hurting," Smith conceded. "The team has too much ability to make this a habit. Teams can play well, you do lose, that’s natural in sport but the standards that we set for ourselves means that we should have the ability to bounce back."
One of the positives to come out of the match was the fiery new-ball spell by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander which quickly knocked over three Pakistan wickets in their chase.
"The positive is that we were better with the new-ball today than we were in Pakistan's first innings," Smith added "That is a big step in the right direction. After the strong opening partnership they had in the first innings it was nice to get things right."
Smith says the squad needs no motivation to improve, and says his players will need to play to their potential in the crucial second match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.