SA batting order under pressure

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AB_bats Getty Images Proteas ODI captain AB de Villiers.

AB de Villiers is getting angry about his team’s performances and his own form with the bat.

In the back-to-back one-day internationals in London, South Africa lost both matches because of poor batting, while De Villiers has got out at key stages and is yet to register a score of any note in the international matches on this tour.

As a result they head to Nottingham on Monday with serious questions about the make-up of the batting order and, as De Villiers described it on Sunday night, “a bit of pressure on the top six”.

”We’ve really got to step up to the plate and make it count including myself,” said the South African captain. The tourists are 2-1 down in the five match series with one to play and will be desperate for a series trying win at Trent Bridge Wednesday.

On Sunday at Lord’s they lost by six wickets, with another gutsy effort from the bowlers forcing the match into the final five overs after the batsmen had posted a mediocre total of 220/8 having been asked to bat by Alastair Cook.

It was by no means an easy pitch, but De Villiers refused to use that as an excuse, instead turning his ire on a batting unit who wasted opportunities just as they had done at The Oval two days earlier.

“We got good starts, but never converted into big partnerships, like they did with [Ian] Bell and [Jonathan] Trott.”

The English pair combined for a partnership of 141 after the early dismissal of Cook, but because there was no pressure to keep up with a run rate that was a modest 4.4 per over at the start of their innings, they could bat at their leisure.

”I’d like to think we should be operating well as a unit, but we are not performing well. When 4,5,6 are performing then the openers are not performing, or vice versa, the problem is we are not performing well as a unit. That’s where we are going wrong.”

South Africa got a reasonable start on Sunday, with Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla putting on 68 for the first wicket, but neither batted for a substantial portion of the innings.

Crucially, no one else did either and it’s become more than just a concern for De Villiers, especially as he would expect it of himself. He said the tinkering with the batting order couldn’t be blamed either because the players had bought into the idea of a more flexible batting line-up.

“We need more partnerships, that’s what the game is all about, that’s how to get momentum. We haven’t had enough of that. We’ve had one partnership in every game and that’s not good enough at this level, you need a couple of good partnerships… The guys are batting in the places where they feel comfortable, the guys have bought into that, we operate as a unit, but the guys are not playing well.”

Besides the opening stand the only other partnership of substance was the 51-run fifth-wicket partnership between De Villiers and Dean Elgar, but as at The Oval, several players got starts without anyone going “big” like Bell did for England in making 88.

Amla (45), Smith (29), Duminy (18), De Villiers (39) and Elgar (35) all spent time at the crease, but failed to build on their starts. “Getting out for 20s and 30s is just not good enough.”

In defence of 221 South Africa needed more than just Steyn’s wicket of Cook inside the first five overs.

And it was clear that Bell and Trott believed that if they could see off Steyn, they could score more comfortably off the rest of the attack.

It raises a few interesting questions for Nottingham.

Do the South Africans bring back Morné Morkel for Lonwabo Tsotsobe – again strangely flat yesterday – or Ryan McLaren, who just doesn’t have the pace to bother opposing batsmen?

And what about Albie Morkel, who, it has been claimed, is close to full fitness and who was to have played a part at some point in this series?

There is only one game left for him to do so now. – The Star

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