’The batters were exposed to the harshest conditions’, says Dean Elgar as Proteas batting will be under the microscope
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JOHANNESBURG - Dean Elgar would rather not talk about how his team will resolve its batting woes. There’s no point in talking.
South Africa’s players have talked a lot - so has coach Mark Boucher - but the difference between talking, preparing, knowing what to do and actually doing it on the field, in a game, is a gap the Proteas have hitherto, for the most part, failed to shrink.
St Lucia’s Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, provides another chance for the batsman to walk the walk, i.e. - score some runs, and avoid collapsing like cheap deck chairs.
Elgar described a two-day inter-squad match at the venue which will host the two-match Test series, as being “very tough.”
“The batters were exposed to the harshest conditions that we could experience,” Elgar said of the match, which was played on a pitch adjacent to the one that will be utilised for Thursday’s Test.
“The battle between bat and ball was extremely competitive. We are aware of the failures we’ve had in the past, and the one thing we can control is our preparation. We’ve prepared very well, but that preparation offers no guarantee of success or a particular outcome.”
From Durban to Rawalpindi, Colombo to the Wanderers, and many places in between the Proteas have become very good at batting collapses. Talking and training has resulted in recognition of the problem but plans to resolve it have fallen well short.
Obviously there are rather big boots to fill in that batting order. The last Proteas team to tour the West Indies - way back in 2010 - still had the likes of Kallis, Smith, De Villiers, Amla and Prince jotted down on the team sheet. ““Bear in mind we’ve lost a lot of experienced batters, who were massive figures in our batting line-up,” the new captain mused.
When Elgar goes to toss the coin with Kraigg Brathwaite on Thursday, he may have another two debutants on the piece of paper he’ll be carrying. Keegan Petersen has already been slated to fill the spot left by Faf du Plessis’s retirement from the Test arena. A hip injury to Temba Bavuma may see Kyle Verrynne slot in at no.5
The injury is a recurrence of the one that kept Bavuma out of the first Test against England in the 2019/20 season, and comes just two months after Bavuma had missed the T20 series against Pakistan after picking up a left hamstring strain. Given his aggressive style in the field and the fact that running hard between wickets is crucial to his batting, the long term implications for Bavuma, who is captain of the Proteas’ limited overs sides, are concerning.
While the pitch for the two day match was lively, Elgar doesn’t expect the same from the surface that will be used for the match. Unlike the practice game, which was played on a strip on the far side of the square and had a prodigious slope which the bowlers cherished using, the centre pitch is a lot flatter. “It should provide a fair contest between bat and ball. If you apply yourself you can score runs which is the mindset we need.”
Elgar said it was important to respect the West Indies, who also set to play an inexperienced side, which could include 19 year old Trinidadian seamer Jaydean Seales after Shannon Gabriel wasn’t picked because of a hamstring injury. “
“I don’t see them as a lesser bowling attack without Shannon Gabriel,” said Elgar. “We need to respect the opposition and earn the right to score against them. If we go into the game with a disrespectful mindset, with regard their bowlers, we are on a hiding to nothing.”
The first ball will be bowled at 4pm (SA time).
West Indies - Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales
South Africa - Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Peterson, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams, Prenelan Subrayen, Marco Jansen.