Hambantota: Russell Domingo is excited at the prospect of his Proteas team playing in a do-or-die affair tomorrow.
After all, with the ICC World Cup just around the corner, every opportunity for the South African side to prove their mettle under pressure can only be a good thing.
For a long time, South Africa have been tripped up by a tendency to fold under considerable pressure in one-day cricket, unlike the steely resolve the Test outfit has shown in high-pressure series wins.
“You’d rather play in these high-pressure games now, so we can get used to the feeling of playing under pressure. Every game that South Africa plays under that pressure can only help in the build-up to the knock-out nature of a World Cup,” Domingo explained.
The Proteas skipped the arduous, 10-hour trek through the Sri Lankan mountains, and hopped into a military helicopter to get to Hambantota, for tomorrow’s final match of the series against a resurgent Sri Lankan outfit.
They may have been hurting after Wednesday’s meek surrender, but the spirit in the camp remains one of quiet determination.
Indeed, they stand one solid performance away from creating history in Sri Lanka, and Domingo has been encouraging his troops to stay focused on the job at hand.
There had been calls from some sectors to make changes to the side after the loss on Wednesday but, much like Sri Lanka the game before, the Proteas have put down their defeat to a bad day at the office.
“I thought we played well in the first game, and then I thought we did well for about 80 overs of the second one,” Domingo said. While he couldn’t quite put his finger on just why South Africa’s middle order collapsed so dramatically, the coach was keen to show faith in a group that has turned a corner in recent months.
“We obviously had a bad 10-over spell, and that ultimately cost us the game.
“We had a few soft dismissals, and when you lose a wicket, the next guy is under even more pressure.
“You know, when you lose one game, people want to jump up and say that we need to make changes. But we had won four games in a row before Wednesday with this group of players, so I don’t see a need to make drastic changes.”
Domingo also expressed his desire to see South Africa climb even closer to the top of the ICC rankings in the 50-over format.
“(Tomorrow’s) game is important to us for a lot of reasons, but also because if we win it we go to No 2 in the world.
“That doesn’t guarantee you success, but it gives you confidence knowing that you are going into a big tournament as one of the top teams. That means that your chances of winning are better,” he added.
Last year, this sleepy town, more famous for being the former home town of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was the scene of a South African resurgence, as they claimed the T20 title with two clinical displays here.
Should they succeed tomorrow, it would not only wipe away a grim history, but also pave the way towards an exciting future.
The Proteas have a fresh opportunity to show that they can not only handle the high stakes, but that they can do so against one of the best-balanced units in the game, in their own backyard, nogal. - The Mercury