Gqeberha – Heading into the series decider in Kandy, South Africa A coach Shukri Conrad has faith in captain Tony de Zorzi’s leadership and his young squad’s natural ability to play an aggressive brand of cricket.
The series is level at 1-1 with one more match remaining in Kandy. The tourists claimed a four-wicket win last Sunday, but Sri Lanka A bounced back and delivered a humbling seven-wicket victory on Tuesday.
There were promising signs from captain De Zorzi and his troops in the first unofficial one-day international with Dewald Brevis smashing an unbeaten 98, but the second match was a contrasting story.
They were blown away by the hosts and could only put on 175 runs on the board.
Despite the dismal batting performance from the top-order batters, Gerald Coetzee (77) and Tristan Stubbs (59) stood out and carried SA A to a low, but decent total.
More than anything, the second match displayed what many South Africans already knew about the squad, that the team is not necessarily dependent on one or a few players to compete.
The man who knows this better than anyone else, Conrad, told IOL Sport before heading to Sri Lanka that the group naturally plays an aggressive brand of cricket which is what he and his staff were looking for in the first place.
“We’ll certainly not be prescriptive in saying this is how we want them to play but if you look at the squad, naturally we have quite an aggressive bunch of players,” said Conrad.
“Each individual pretty much knows what their games are about. Our game plans are pretty simple, we assess conditions and we want to play quite aggressively to begin with.
“Ultimately the boys will play the way they know, and they will do what has gotten them here and then we’ll take it from there. If the conditions allow, I think we will play an aggressive brand of one-day cricket for starters and then similarly with the four-day stuff.”
Proteas limited-overs coach Rob Walter is assisting Conrad on the white-ball leg of the tour and even he mentioned on several occasions that his plans for SA cricket largely revolved around playing an aggressive game.
To be able to do this, the team needed a capable leader who will motivate the players on the field to keep choosing positive options regardless of the situation.
Conrad is confident that De Zorzi is the right man for the job and that he could be a future captain of the senior men’s side.
“Tony for me is a natural-born leader,” said Conrad.
“For starters he makes the team as a good player. He played in the Test side and did well. So, for me it is about giving him opportunities so that when India comes around in December, he would have had a taste of what’s closest to that level. That’s the first point.
“Secondly, from a leadership point of view, his leadership in the past speaks for itself. He’s captained the SA Under-19 team and then the Western Province team a little bit.
“I think he is naturally one of those guys leadership sits well with. He’s very good tactically, but has a lot to learn still.
“For me, captaincy for the national side is of most importance and that’s what I see in Tony maybe in the future.”
A few changes in the XI that lost the second match in Kandy are imminent and all South Africans will be eagerly awaiting to see who Conrad will choose for Thursday’s series decider.
Does SA A leading wicket-taker Lutho Sipamla come back into the XI after missing out in the second match? Will Keegan Petersen return?
All these questions will be answered when Conrad selects his team on Thursday morning.