Johannesburg — Prior to this series against the West Indies, the Proteas had not passed 300 in 16 Test innings.
They have now achieved it twice in successive first innings, but yet there still remains an itchy feeling that they have let the opposition off the hook.
These are the standards that this new Proteas Test side wants to judge themselves on after closing Day 1 of this second Test at the Wanderers on 311/7.
“On both occasions we got over 300, we've started well, and that’s thanks to Dean (Elgar) and Aiden (Markram) who have negotiated the new ball. That makes a big difference to the rest of the batting line-up,” said Tony de Zorzi, who struck his maiden half-century on Wednesday in just his second Test.
“It is a process. There are a few guys who haven’t even played double-digit Test matches yet. It is definitely going to take some time. I know it will come because there are some really talented guys coming in, and I am sure those stats will start looking a lot more positive.”
Part of building up those numbers is for individuals to get more Test centuries. The Proteas only managed two in the entire calendar year in 2022, although both Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne have been considered surplus to requirements under the new dispensation of captain Temba Bavuma and coach Shukri Conrad.
Aiden Markram has already looked to ensure 2023 is a better year for the batters with his ton in last week’s first Test at Centurion and should have had another here on Wednesday at the Wanderers before a miscalculation that led to his departure four runs shy of the milestone.
Equally, De Zorzi had looked set for a maiden century at the ground just 10 minutes away from where he schooled at King Edward VII School (KES).
The classy left-hander was much more sedate than the fluid Markram, but most importantly never looked troubled throughout his 85 off 155 balls that included 11 boundaries.
The majority of those boundaries were struck square of the wicket with De Zorzi guiding the ball behind point with ease.
It was almost a surprise when he was eventually dismissed, with recalled West Indian spinner Gudakesh Motie (3/75) looping a delivery that gripped off the surface before breaching the defences of the dread-locked left-hander.
“I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to get over the line,” De Zorzi said. “I was probably being a little too greedy with that particular ball. But at the end of the day I am to contribute to the team's score with a performance.”
Barring the almost customary end of day collapse that saw the Proteas lose 5/68 towards the close, the other major improvement among the batters has been the formation of solid partnerships.
Elgar (42) and Markram set the tone with a rapid 76-run stand in 17.3 overs before the latter and De Zorzi upped the ante with a further 116-run stand. Captain Bavuma (28) and De Zorzi also added 56 for the third wicket.
It has ensured that the Proteas have possibly put together enough first innings runs to bring their two spinners Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer into the game on Day 2.
“There was a bit of a turn on offer. It actually gives us a lot of confidence. We have Kesh and Simon bowling on that wicket, they are two world-class spinners and we're positive that we've made the right decisions,” De Zorzi said.