CAPE TOWN – With a bloodied nose, the Proteas have made their way to Nottingham to lick their wounds and try to think up a plan to get back into the Test series against England.
The manner in which the South Africans meekly folded at Lord’s was seriously disappointing.
None of the fight that they have become known for was in evidence at the home of cricket – the mistakes in the field turned into ill-discipline with the no-balls, and then the lack of grind with bat in hand in the second innings translated into a disjointed overall performance.
The Proteas appeared to be in disarray somewhat, and it was easy to understand why. They had just come off a terrible Champions Trophy display, had lost both the ODI and T20 series, and didn’t have their Test captain Faf du Plessis available.
On top of that, the continuously grey cloud that is AB de Villiers hovers over the set-up, while coach Russell Domingo had to deal with the personal anguish of his mother being involved in an accident – and now she has unfortunately succumbed to her injuries.
So, it was all a little on the back foot for South Africans, and Kagiso Rabada has been ruled out of the second Test for having “words” with Ben Stokes.
But all is not lost. The series is still alive with three Tests to go, but the Proteas need to hit back – and hard – at Trent Bridge starting on Friday.
The most telling shortcoming of their Lord’s outing was the lack of runs from the batsmen. So, the talk about playing just six batsmen in the second match should not be entertained.
The Proteas need every run they can get, which is why they should pick as many batsmen as possible for Nottingham.
Yes, sadly the classy JP Duminy’s Test career is in the balance, and it would be understandable if selection convenor Linda Zondi and his team feel that the left-hander has run out of chances in the five-day arena.
Even his good friend Du Plessis seems to be leaning that way…
But Theunis de Bruyn must be given an opportunity to build on that 48 from the first innings at Lords. Back in a familiar middle-order spot, the Knights skipper showed why he made the squad in the first place, showing good application under intense pressure alongside Temba Bavuma after the top-order collapsed.
With Du Plessis back from baby and mom duty, he is likely to replace Duminy.
But Rabada’s absence means that the most popular solution appears to be choosing two bowlers to replace the extraordinary young Joburger with, Chris Morris and Duanne Olivier, with De Bruyn also missing out.
Not up to standard in the first test. On to the second - life moves on. The guys are determined 👊🏾
However, a better solution would be to keep the right-handed batsman, as well as Morris and Olivier or another all-rounder in Andile Phehlukwayo – and go without a specialist spinner in Keshav Maharaj.
Yes, Du Plessis likes to have a slow-bowling option available in the five-day arena, and it is always desirable to do so.
But Trent Bridge is known to favour the quick bowlers, and Moeen Ali is unlikely to get the same kind of assistance that he did on a rather dry Lord’s track.
So, let’s go for the old Proteas approach and “blast out” England, while also strengthening the brittle batting line-up.
That appears to be the best course for this “horse”, a four-pronged pace attack of Morris, Olivier or Phehlukwayo (who would also bolster the batting), Vernon Philander and Morné Morkel, while all of Du Plessis, Dean Elgar, De Bruyn and even Bavuma can their arm over to provide relief.
What will also be important is to move Quinton de Kock up the order, to No 5. The Proteas can’t afford to have their most in-form batsman at the moment operating with the tail.
De Kock should come in after Du Plessis as he has the ability to take the game away from the opposition, whether he comes in at 30/3 or 200/3. He is that good…
The Proteas should also be better at Trent Bridge as they will have that intangible of having their “backs to the wall”, while there should also be an element of wanting to do for their coach Domingo, who is back in South Africa to mourn his late mother.
My Proteas Team:
Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris, Duanne Olivier/Andile Phehlukwayo, Morné Morkel.
* Ashfak Mohamed is the Digital Sports Editor at Independent Media.