JP Duminy scored 51 in one innings but only managed another 51 runs in his other four innings, two of which were undefeated.
David Miller could only score 13 runs in three brief innings, Ryan McLaren batted twice for 30 runs and Rilee Rossouw also only batted twice, scoring a duck and 36.
“They’ve really done well and for me winning in Sri Lanka was the big one. Zimbabwe was great for their confidence. Australia were a bit undercooked, but there was needle in those games and it’s always lekker to beat them. We’re beating them more than ever before, here, over there and in other places.
“Our top five can really win games and set a platform, but I worry a bit about our middle-order. It’s a really difficult place to bat in and I think we need to give more opportunity to those guys, get them batting up the order in warm-up games or the softer matches. They must get batting, that will get them confidence and it will change the whole dynamic of the side,” Smith told The Pretoria News.
Smith said he felt particularly sorry for Miller, who either came in to bat with very few deliveries remaining or with the top-order having fallen cheaply.
“We know his ability and I think he should have been pushed up the order against Zimbabwe. That’s what should happen in the softer games. A guy like him needs both clarity in terms of his role and confidence,” South Africa’s captain in a record 149 ODIs said.
Smith also backed leg-spinner Imran Tahir as the man who will probably be the first-choice spinner for the World Cup early next year in Australia and New Zealand.
“I think Imran is a terrific short-form bowler, he picks up wickets and he’s difficult to attack because he turns the ball both ways. A finger spinner, if he doesn’t get big turn, can be lined up and go for 50 or 60 runs without the batsmen taking any risks. The smaller boundaries in New Zealand mean you probably won’t play two specialist spinners there, especially since JP Duminy is basically a frontline bowler now.
“Imran is the sort of bowler who can create things, he’s a partnership breaker and he takes pressure off the seamers. If you don’t have a spinner taking wickets then the seamers can be over-bowled and then they’re tired at the death,” Smith said.
The recently-retired left-hander said the need for wicket-taking bowlers remained a strong conviction of his.
“You need impact bowlers, both spinners and pacemen. In one-day cricket, if you can have game-changers with the ball then it makes a big difference.”
Smith also said the role of the selectors was crucial in getting the balance of the side right for the World Cup.
“A lot of the time, the balance of the side is about gut feel. But the selectors need to create consistency in the build-up to the World Cup. Those last two or three places in the squad are also crucial and the management have to have confidence in them if they decide to play the extra batsman or extra bowler. You don’t want things to suddenly start changing once you’re at the World Cup,” Smith warned.
“But we’ll obviously feel more at home in the conditions in New Zealand and Australia. Eighty percent of the time now you play in sub-continental conditions, but this World Cup will suit our style of play. Spinners will still be effective because the boundaries are big, so rotating the strike is key,” Smith said.
The 33-year-old is now a full-time employee of major cricket sponsors Momentum, marking the start of his business career and confirming that he has turned down the approaches of the Big Bash in Australia and of his own Cape Cobras side to play in the Champions League.
“My relationship with Momentum started back in 2003 and it’s a great place to start my business life. I’ll also be doing work with Cricket South Africa on the cultural identity of the Proteas, which is something very close to my heart, as well as some leadership consulting, public speaking, that sort of thing. So I won’t be going to the Big Bash to play for Perth Scorchers or to the Champions League with the Cobras,” Smith confirmed.