PORT ELIZABETH – Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, put the blame for the 2-0 home Test series loss to Sri Lanka squarely on the batsmen, calling the defeat among "the most disappointing" in his career.
Having beaten two subcontinent giants, India and Pakistan, as well as Australia over the past 14 months, South Africa were expected to dominate a diminished Sri Lanka. However, an inspiring century by Kusal Perera in Durban and all-round efforts in Port Elizabeth helped the visitors clinch an unexpected first series win in the rainbow nation for a team from Asia.
Du Plessis described the loss as a "massive dent" to the team's confidence ahead of a "big five months of cricket" leading into the Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.
"I thought up until this Test series we were looking good and playing well at home, but the last two Test matches, I wish I can give you an answer but we prepared the way we do and we didn't take them for granted," Du Plessis said.
"Maybe, mentally the boys were off the boil at the end of a long season, but that's not an excuse once again. It's probably up there with the most disappointing series loss, certainly from my own personal point of view and also from a team perspective."
The second Test finished on the third morning and as many as 31 wickets fell on the first two days. It was not the first time that South Africa have suffered batting collapses this season. They did not cross 300 across the four innings in this series and were bundled out for just 128 in the second innings in Port Elizabeth after having taken a vital 68-run first-innings lead.
Experienced batsmen Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla haven't been in the best form and only Quinton de Kock and Du Plessis managed half-centuries in the series. The captain refused to use the pitch as an excuse, squarely blaming the batsmen.
"I would see that as an excuse if anyone in the team used that," Du Plessis said on the talk of a tough batting pitch. "Certainly, that's not the language I've heard in the dressing room ... Everywhere you go as a batter, you need to adapt your mindset and score runs on whatever you see in front of you on the day.
"This was a very good pitch and I think both teams throughout this series have batted poorly," he explained. "[Saturday] was the first time two guys put a partnership together and made it look easy. When I was batting in both innings, I felt it was a really good batting pitch and like I said both teams did not put on the runs like they should have.”
Cricket "is about fighting it out and grinding it out", but the South African batsmen did not make the bowlers "earn" their wickets, he rued.
"They bowled well but the biggest disappointment lies with the team – the batting line-up and we have got some really good batters there. Probably 99 percent of our dismissals were soft, judgement errors and that's the only finger pointing backward at ourselves."
African News Agency (ANA)