REUTERS - An emotional Graeme Smith marked his return from an ankle injury with an unbeaten double century as South Africa went on a record-breaking run spree against Pakistan in Dubai on Thursday.
Smith enjoyed a day to remember as he smashed 227 not out on the second day of the second test, crossed 9000 test runs and shared a South African record fifth-wicket stand of 326 with AB de Villiers (157 not out) as they built up a significant lead over Pakistan.
"It was a lot of hard work to get to this point, a lot of emotions came out of me. It was a grind," South African captain Smith said of his 10 hours at the crease, facing 367 balls in oppressive heat at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
"The outfield was not quick and I seemed to get my runs to the long boundaries, which meant I had to keep running threes," he told SuperSport television.
"After five months off, I had one and a half innings (at bat) before the start of this test series and to stand here having scored a double hundred against a quality attack is a good feeling."
It was his fifth test double ton.
"I haven't always been the most talented guy but I've found a way to score runs and I understand how to do it."
Looking significantly leaner after a tough recent fitness regime, Smith built on his overnight score 67 not out.
"Three months on crutches gives you ample time to put on weight, eat well and drink with your mates but once I started (training) the discipline kicked in and a lot of good people got me to where I am," he said of surgery in May on a persistent ankle problem.
"I was quite surprised I didn't cramp. I have had a problem with cramp throughout my career but the little whipper-snapper on the other end (De Villiers) cramped more than me, so I gave him a little bit of stick for that."
De Villiers was dropped off his first ball and capitalised on the let off by punishing the Pakistan bowlers.
"When AB came into bat it was a key moment in the game, anything could have happened, one or two wickets and we would have been under pressure without too much of a lead and having to bat last on this wicket.
"AB and myself are good friends and it was wonderful to spend time out there with him. Our rapport is good, we kept it nice and light but also really focused on the game plan. And batting with him, the intensity changes. He's got so many strokes, the ability to change the game so quickly and transfer pressure."
Smith must now decide whether to declare overnight or to build on South Africa's 361-run lead after skittling Pakistan for 99 in the first innings. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by Pritha Sarkar)