JOHANNESBURG – There are problems with South Africa’s batting that go well beyond just the personnel.
The debates both within the selection meetings and those taking place in public may be about who, but there’s another question about how South Africa are going about their One-Day batting at the moment following an eight-wicket defeat to Pakistan at the Wanderers on Sunday.
Some of that strategy has been highlighted in this series.
They were too slow in Port Elizabeth and generally have failed to assert themselves.
For an hour at SuperSport Park, after the rain delay, Reeza Hendricks and Faf du Plessis played with intent. That element was absent at the Wanderers on Sunday as it was in PE a week earlier.
What’s caused its absence is part of the ongoing chat in the Proteas change-room.
Captain Faf du Plessis talks about the batsmen needing to play freely, but acknowledges that that is difficult as they try and impress selectors for a World Cup spot.
Another significant reason is the personnel, and especially the search for a viable No 3.
Hendricks played well in the second match and has an international career that is dotted with innings where he has looked a capable player. But too often, he’s struggled to assert himself.
Rassie van der Dussen started this series in the No 3 spot, scoring 93 and 80 not out – the latter helping rescue the Proteas from a tricky situation.
He’s been shifted to No 5 to test out his versatility and on Sunday, he got stuck trying to keep the innings afloat while more experienced teammates failed.
There’s another reason for South Africa’s batting problems in this series – Pakistan. They are a very good one-day unit – one that has now won six out of the last nine One-Day matches against Proteas.
Despite missing their suspended captain Sarfraz Ahmed, they continued to look a well-drilled unit, and the skill of their bowlers, both seamers and spinners, proved far too good for this fragile Proteas batting unit.
It was spinners Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan that entwined the South African innings on Sunday, creating pressure on the home team’s two most experienced batsmen, Du Plessis and Hashim Amla.
Both notched up half-centuries as part of a 101-run stand for the third wicket, but at the time they were looking to increase the scoring rate, they were struggling to loosen the control created by the slow left-arm spin from Imad and vicious leg-breaks from Shadab.
The latter emerged the winner from an intriguing battle with the South African captain, while Amla was flummoxed by Imad, with both batsmen out to attacking shots.
Mohammad Amir bowled a couple of excellent overs at the Corlett Drive End, accounting for David Miller, and the pressure he created – on the back of the fine work done by the spinners –allowed Usman Shinwari to batter through the South African lower-order.
The powerfully built left-arm seamer picked up four wickets in six balls to finish off the South African collapse to 164 all out, which saw the hosts lose their last eight wickets for 45 runs in 15.1 overs.
A significant part of SA’s 50-over strategy is built around the four attacking wicket-taking bowlers – which for this series is missing Lungi Ngidi.
But even with him, defending this mediocre total would have proved impossible.
Pakistan cruised to the eight-wicket victory, finishing on 168/2 – inflicting the first loss on the Proteas in a ‘Pink ODI’.
For all the plans built around a very fine group of seamers, if the Proteas don’t have enough runs to work with, they can’t build pressure on opposing batsmen.
South Africa have to resolve their problems with the bat.
It’s not just personnel – it’s strategy and execution too, and they are getting none of that right at the moment.@shockerhess