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Proteas batters simply need to play more first-class cricket if they hope to compete in Test cricket

South African captain Dean Elgar jokes with Matthew Renshaw as he walks from the field during Day 2 of the Third Test between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney

South African captain Dean Elgar jokes with Matthew Renshaw as he walks from the field during Day 2 of the Third Test between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney. Picture: Dean Lewins/EPA

Published Jan 6, 2023


Cape Town — Justin Sammons believes the only way to remedy the Proteas’ Test batting woes is for them to play more cricket.

Sammons, who is the Proteas batting coach, has been under immense pressure with his charges just passing 200 once in their last eight innings. Equally, there were only two centuries scored by Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne throughout the 2022 calendar year.

Many of these failures have been put down to the inexperience of the batting unit at Test level, but the greater concern has been the lack of sufficient game-time on the domestic circuit to prepare batters for the step up to international cricket.

Currently, the Cricket SA 4-Day competition consists of just seven matches — potentially 14 innings — due to budget constraints, and Sammons believes this does not prepare players sufficiently.

“We’ve got to think out of the box — the board and the director of cricket [Enoch Nkwe] have to find ways. We can’t just resign to the fact that we won’t play enough first class cricket and T20 is going to dominate,” Sammons said after the third day of the final Test against Australia in Perth was washed out.

“How do we do that? That’s up to the decision-makers. But it is key for us, we have to play more four-day and first class cricket. How they balance that is up to them. The more games you play, the better you are going to get and the more lessons you are going to take.

“It is an important focus area for us as a country in how we look after the First Class system and four-day cricket in future. It’s going to be a tricky balancing act. It’s the way the world is going. We need our guys playing as much cricket as possible.”

The challenge will be even greater now that the new SA20 League is set to be launched on Tuesday in the prime part of the cricket summer.

However, the challenge is not only the lack of domestic first-class cricket, but also for players to go away and improve their techniques and skill sets and learn from their experiences over the past two tours to England and Australia.

“Following up from that England series it was tough. We faced conditions that a lot of the players, bar Dean (Elgar), hadn’t experienced before. That was a big learning experience. Confidence was dented," he said.

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"Then we got to the first Test, in which conditions favoured the bowlers. From a confidence point of view, naturally the batters would have been hit. In the last Test, an area we had been improving on as a batting group — the mental errors we were making — we slipped up. We strayed out of our gameplan.

“We just spoke about playing, and that's how you improve. You don't improve by sitting in the dressing room on a rainy day,” Sammons said.

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"Whether you're making mistakes or having a good knock out there, that's the way you're going to grow. And I think that's important for this group is that we embrace those challenges and look forward to the challenge because that's what Test cricket is about and that is how you're going to get better.

"So yes, it's been a tough tour, but there still is that positive approach to it."


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