'We are sitting pretty'

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The Independent Online
Robin Smith insisted last night that the fight is far from over after watching the rest of England's batting collapse around him as the side slumped to 153 all out.

Smith was the only player to offer any real resistance in the face of Allan Donald's five-wicket haul, contributing 66 on the opening day of the deciding Test. But he refused to accept that England are heading for defeat in the series.

"They've won the first round but we've got to pick ourselves up, bowl them out cheaply and then perform very much better in our second innings," he said. "I honestly think it would be very difficult to score 170 batting last on this pitch."

England would have been in an even worse position but for Smith making a success of his promotion to the problematic No 3 spot - his was the best score by far by an Englishman in that position in the series.

Smith gave most of the credit in a dramatic day to South Africa's bowlers. "One or two of our batsmen will be a bit disappointed, but South Africa bowled terrifically well," he said. "The pitch was relatively easy-paced today, but I believe it will quicken up and get much more difficult to bat on.

"I think it's going to deteriorate quite quickly - the cracks look very much wider tonight than they did eight hours ago."

Smith said he thought that a first-innings deficit of 40 or 50 would be "manageable" on a pitch that was relaid only seven months ago. But South Africa believe that they can build an altogether more substantial advantage.

"We are sitting pretty at the moment," Donald, who struck a key blow by dismissing Mike Atherton for a duck on his way to figures of 5 for 46, said. "If we capitulate we've only got ourselves to blame. The destiny of the game is in our hands. There's a bit of uneven bounce but I don't think the pitch favours the bowlers too much. It's very important how you bowl on it - you have to be aggressive."

Donald said that the capture of Atherton's wicket early on had been vital. "He is the backbone of the England batting line-up. If you can knock him over early and get Nos 3 and 4 in with the ball still new it makes a big difference."

Atherton fell to Donald's new-ball spell from the Wynberg end, but he took his other four wickets from the Kelvin Grove End.

"I had a word with Hansie [Cronje] at lunch after seeing Brian McMillan had got more bounce at the other end. If I looked seriously happy after taking my third wicket [Hick] it was because I was. I had a feeling it might be the turning point."

Bob Woolmer, South Africa's coach, preferred to delay his verdict. He said: "Hansie and I hadn't discussed the toss and it might have been a good one to lose, but you can't really tell until both sides have batted.

"Allan bowled beautifully and our catching was fantastic. That made the difference. I would rather see both first innings before I make a judgment, but I don't think it's a 153 all out pitch."