Nottingham - There’s been some anger, undoubtedly some tough talking behind closed doors. However, come Wednesday night South Africa, in the finest traditions of the mythology for which this East Midlands city is famous, will look to steal a series win from England.
If AB de Villiers’s side doesn’t quite resemble a group of “Merry Men” at present, their glum moods are understandable. Their forays on the cricket fields of London were not conducted according to the plans drawn up and discussed at team meetings.
They’ve executed poorly, got ahead of themselves when they should have kept their eye on the next ball and they look like a group missing a key member - which they are. De Villiers, though, refuses to use Jacques Kallis’s absence as an excuse for the shoddy batting performances produced at The Oval and at Lord’s at the weekend.
Of course the Proteas miss his experience - 321 ODI caps is a lot to replace - but De Villiers, like Gary Kirsten is acutely aware of the need to manage the 36-year-old’s - he turns 37 in a month’s time - workload.
Just as importantly Kirsten needs to gauge the ability of South Africa’s strength in depth. Kallis wants to play the next World Cup and will hang up his boots after that event in 2015, so what does South Africa have waiting in the wings?
Even for that event Kirsten, the coaching staff and the selectors need to assess players and the best way to do that is to put them in pressured situations. What will they learn from picking Dean Elgar in a one-day series against New Zealand at home later this summer?
With respect to the Black Caps, not as much as they will from watching him in a foreign environment against good quality bowlers like England have in this series.
Elgar has struggled to score quickly enough, but this experience will prove invaluable for him if he uses it properly. Remember Vernon Philander in 2007, and how he looked like he didn’t belong. He went back to the domestic circuit at home, applied the lessons learned and suddenly is up for high honours at international cricket’s most prestigious awards ceremony in a few weeks time.
De Villiers certainly was in no mood to hear talk that the losses in London - sizable as they were - suggested there was a problem with the depth of South African cricket.
“We just didn’t play well, Elgar, (Ryan) McLaren and the guys who came in, they can play. I’ve seen them win games for their teams back home on the big stage, in finals, I’ve seen them do that,” he said.
De Villiers again apportioned blame on himself and the senior players.
“They are inexperienced and when you have a lot of inexperience in the team you need the senior players to take control. Including myself, getting out for 20s and 30s is just not good enough at this level. The inexperienced guys feed off the experienced men,” he stressed.
De Villiers scores reflect those problems. He’s had two innings of 28 and another of 39, making very little impact for his side.
With all the tinkering with the batting order, the one bit of experimentation that hasn’t been tried is De Villiers at No 3, where Kallis would usually bat. It’s the position from which he can have the most influence and he should be given a run there at some stage - hopefully tomorrow.
De Villiers scores reflect those problems. He’s had two innings of 28 and another of 39, making very little impact for his side. It’s causing him plenty of angst too - he spoke after The Oval about “feeling that tonight was my night” - and it points to broader worries about his lack of runs on tour. His highest score in the Test series was 47, although it’s hard to judge his form. De Villiers always looks good at the crease, but in each of the ODIs he has been dismissed as he’s attempted to accelerate the scoring.
With all the tinkering with the batting order, the one bit of experimentation that hasn’t been tried is De Villiers at No 3, where Kallis would usually bat. It’s the position from which he can have the most influence and he should be given a run there at some stage - hopefully on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a long term plan, we want to play better cricket, we can’t be thinking about rankings when we are playing at 70% of our potential. We’ll be trying to improve in various areas, including the batting. We are a bit under pressure with the top six. We’ll chat about that, there’ll be a batting meeting and a whole team meeting to see where we can improve and how we can be a better team,” he said.