Boucher says there'll no resting on laurels for the Proteas
JOHANNESBURG – In case anyone thinks all the Proteas’ problems have suddenly been solved by victory in the opening Test against England, Mark Boucher provided a stern reminder to both viewers and his players that it most definitely wasn’t the case.
The South African team certainly celebrated the 107-run triumph at SuperSport Park in the manner of a team that hadn’t won since January and had lost its previous five Tests. And rightly so. As Boucher pointed out, no Test win should ever be taken for granted but it is also only a start. For one there is a series still at stake and England will comeback hard, and for another, this is a Proteas team that is still in the very early stages of its development, amidst a climate in South African cricket that remains thick with suspicion and paranoia.
“We will get back on the horse. We realise there is still a lot of hard work to be done for the rest of the series,” Boucher remarked.
His own work in his new position is only just beginning. Boucher was called up by Cricket SA’s interim Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith just two weeks ago, and put together his coaching staff - that now includes Jacques Kallis and temporary batting consultant and Charl Langeveldt as bowling coach - hastily. “It’s been a hectic two weeks, we put in a lot of hard work as a coaching staff and our management as well. This (win) is the reward for that hard work.”
For the players it was also a significant confidence boost, a reminder that they are good players capable of beating good sides. “Just watching the guys walk in, a couple of guys had lumps in their throats, which means it means a lot to them, to win a Test match. It’s great to be back, I’ve been out of Proteas cricket for a period of time now, it’s an honour for me to be in that change-room and hopefully be a part of a change in South African cricket,” Boucher added.
So much more needs to change of course both in the team and in Cricket SA. “By no means does this (win) mean everything is solved, but I’m looking forward to working hard with the guys and seeing them develop in the next short while.”
He admitted to some nervous moments on the fourth afternoon, particularly after lunch on Sunday when English captain Joe Root and Ben Stokes grew more aggressive. “I knew they would try and make a play like that, but we got Kesh on and almost dangled a carrot a little bit. Thankfully it worked."
He was also impressed by how the side were willing to take a risk on the first day when they were in trouble at 111/5. “We were quite brave in how we went about delivering a bit of a counter-punch. On a different day that might not have worked out and then we’d be sitting afterwards wondering ‘was that a good decision?’ But I’m encouraged by the fact that the guys were prepared to take that risk and ultimately it paid off.”
On then to Newlands, where like Centurion the Proteas enjoy playing and have a good record. Not much fault can be found in the bowling performance in the first Test - which skipper Faf du Plessis described as exceptional - and bar a couple of dropped catches by Rassie van der Dussen, the fielding was of a high standard as well.
The batting remains a concern. There will be at least one change with Aiden Markram out of the series with a broken left ring finger, but overall, the top order as Du Plessis explained needs to score the bulk of the teams runs, something that didn’t happen in the first Test.
Dean Elgar could certainly do with some time at the crease, while Zubayr Hamza showed encouraging signs in the first innings and will learn that once he gets a start like that he needs to cash in. Du Plessis actually batted well in both innings and made a very silly error in the second against Archer.
It will be in that department where Boucher and Kallis will focus a lot of attention in the coming few days. The second Test starts on January 3.