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Proteas take a two-day break as dark cloud continues to hang over batting

South Africa captain Dean Elgar walks off after being dismissed by Australia's Mitchell Starc during day one of the first Test match against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane

South Africa captain Dean Elgar walks off after being dismissed by Australia's Mitchell Starc during day one of the first Test match against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane. Photo: Patrick Hamilton/AFP

Published Dec 19, 2022


Johannesburg — Is it worth going over the numbers regarding South Africa’s batters, again?

Is it worth repeating what has been said about the batting, over and over again?

Is it worth going over the fact that the problem regarding the Proteas Test batting is systemic?

No, no and no. Everyone seemingly knows the problems, they all have worked, to use Dean Elgar’s words, “bloody well” in the build up to the first Test against Australia, in the build-up to other Tests in the last three years, they just can’t seem to find the answer about how to score runs on anything approaching a consistent basis.

South Africa is a bad batting team. And hearing Kyle Verreynne speak after the first day’s play in Brisbane when he had top scored with 69, it was as if the batting unit had grown to accept it.

Of course the pitch for the first Test was a poor one, and South Africa have had to play on some tricky ones in the last 18 months, but that has allowed the batters to slip into a mindset that their jobs are too difficult and if they just do enough, the bowlers will bail them out.

What that mindset has led to, is them doing less than is enough.

Elgar said because of the conditions at the Gabba, he wouldn’t be too critical of his batters and that what was needed was for them to divorce themselves from that first Test as much as possible before they head to Melbourne for the second Test.

While there has been some cynicism about the decision that the players were given a rest on Monday and Tuesday, it is the best course of action if they are going to follow Elgar’s call. They will train on Wednesday, which would have been day five of the Test.

“I can’t see us hitting more balls and becoming better. We’ve played the game long enough so hitting another hundred balls a day is not going to make you a better cricketer,” said the South African captain. “It’s one of those games where you failed. We will break it down, have chats, I’d rather see the guys not do anything until we get to Melbourne. That’s just me, some others may feel they need to do stuff and I’m sure the coaching staff will give them the best opportunity to be ready for the next Test.”

Right now it feels like the batters are living on hope, that at some point they will get on a pitch that isn’t as demanding as what they have faced in South Africa or in New Zealand, England or Brisbane.

Elgar is fully aware that he needs to lead the way as far as getting runs is concerned. His majestic fourth innings effort against India at the Wanderers seems an age ago and if the batting is going to turn around, then it is the captain who will have to grind out something special at the MCG. Since that unbeaten 96 against Virat Kohli’s men, Elgar has made three further half-centuries, all against Bangladesh and his next best score is 47, which came at Lord’s. His last hundred was nearly two years ago.


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