The numbers tell an embarrassing tale: played five, won two, lost three in a triangular Twenty20 series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
However, as Proteas coach Gary Kirsten explained, the purpose of the week-long journey north of the Limpopo was not to win the competition – “if that was the main goal, then potentially we would have picked our strongest team” – but to assess players and combinations.
For a superficial South African sporting public, admittedly burned by numerous disastrous exits from ICC tournaments, Kirsten’s assessment may ring hollow.
However, it must be stated that this was an unofficial series, with wins and losses not counting for the record.
Where it was of great importance to Kirsten and his management team was in outlining who has the capacity to play at international level and, more specifically, who has forced his way into the reckoning for the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in September.
“(The tour) certainly wasn’t a failure. The purpose of the tour was to try out different combinations under match intensity, and I think we achieved that. The results were disappointing, but that wasn’t the main goal,” Kirsten remarked on Monday.
“We haven’t focused on performance in this series in Zimbabwe. We know we are measured by performances, but this team doesn’t look at performances, we look at what we do in our process and what we do on a daily basis to give ourselves the best chance of success.”
Hashim Amla, who captained the team, and Richard Levi opened in four matches, while Faf du Plessis partnered Levi at the top of the order in the second group game against Bangladesh.
Young Chris Morris opened the bowling with Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the last two matches and bowled at the death against Bangladesh in the group stage.
If it all looks a little unstructured, then that was the point; Kirsten even joked that while in some instances the management are clearer about certain choices, in others they are “a bit more confused”.
He mentioned Wayne Parnell as one of those well-served by the tournament, but so was Levi and even Amla, whose experience of captaining the side will stand him in good stead in the future.
By the time of the three T20 internationals at the end of the England tour, South Africa will have a clearer picture about what was achieved in Zimbabwe and how they plan to go about their work for the World T20 tournament in Sri Lanka. They would also be boosted by the presence of people named Kallis, Steyn and De Villiers.
For now, Kirsten’s attention, like everyone else’s, turns to England, with a stop-over in Switzerland first where they will be engaged in team-building exercises with renowned adventurer Mike Horn.
“This Proteas team will be fully ready to play Test cricket come July 19 (the opening day of the first Test),” Kirsten said. – The Star