Dubai: South Africa skipper Graeme Smith said he was pleased with his side’s progress ahead of next year’s World Cup after clinching a 3-2 win in the one-day series against Pakistan.
“For me, the steps from where we were in the winter to where we are now, I think we have taken some big steps forward, which is good,” Smith said after his side’s 57-run win in the final one-day match in Dubai on Monday.
South Africa rode on an all-round performance from Jacques Kallis, whose 83 helped them to an imposing 317-5 before he took 3-30 to restrict Pakistan’s innings to 260.
Smith refused to be drawn on next year’s World Cup, to be jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“We are not predicting anything on the World Cup, there is a lot of cricket still to be played,” said Smith, 29, whose country has never won the tournament.
“Several guys made their debut against Pakistan in the one-day series, a lot of them have travelled to this part of the world for the first time and I think there has been lots of positives in the series.”
Pakistan’s two victories in the one-day series came by one wicket, and Smith said if South Africa had not missed opportunities they could have won 5-0.
“Those are the things we learn from and become more clinical, but there are lots of positives as all 15 players have contributed (in the series),” he said.
South Africa next host India for a series of three Tests and five one-dayers and Smith said the tourists would be a tough prospect.
“Its quite obvious that they (India) are number one Test team in the world and would be ideal to compete,” said Smith, who hailed 35-year-old allrounder Kallis as one of the greatest players he played with.
“Throughout my career I ran out of things you say about Jacques (Kallis). He is an asset for South African cricket and when he does walk away from the game its going to be a big loss to us, but now we got him we want to make the most of him.”
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said he wanted improvement from his team in key areas.
“I think we did fight in all the matches, but after a critical analysis of the way we played I think we need to improve our fielding, fitness and batting in the middle overs,” he said.
“We have one more series against New Zealand before the World Cup, so we must step up in some areas before the big event and that is very important for us.”
Pakistan and South Africa now play two Tests – one each in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The series was moved to the United Arab Emirates due to security fears.
The first Test starts in Dubai on November 12.