The Proteas need to seize the big moments with the bat in the remaining Tests against England if they want to ensure a series win, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The great Proteas teams of the late 2000s into the mid 2010s always were brilliant in reading the match situations. They were a group of cricketers who played the on-field situation exceptionally well. They knew when to take the game to the opposition or when to slow the game down to consolidate or frustrate their foes.
You think back to that mammoth partnership between Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers against Australia in Perth in 2012, where, towards the back end of the third day’s play, the star duo put their foot on the pedal and blazed the Australians to all parts to set up a series victory.
The South Africans had a slender first-innings lead in that match, but they could sense the Australian bowlers were there for the taking after they bowled many overs in the previous Tests in the series. Both players scored big tons at a rapid rate and the Aussies were set a target of over 600 runs, which was always impossible to achieve.
There are many other examples of this when the Proteas were the dominant Test team on the planet. If they were a boxer, they would have been a combination of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. They had the ability to absorb pressure, before coming out swinging and landing multiple blows to cripple the opposition.
Transferring pressure is very important in Test cricket, especially on flat wickets.
England did that on the fourth morning of the second Test at Newlands, when their big hitters took the game away from South Africa after Dom Sibley had set that up beautifully with a gritty and disciplined knock.
Earlier in the Test, though, the Proteas missed their moment with the bat to put England under pressure. Dean Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen were going along nicely, but didn’t try to have a go at young spinner Dom Bess. The right-handed Van der Dussen, especially, should maybe have tried to hit him over the top, as the ball was turning into him and he was hitting with the wind.
In the end, Elgar tried to take on the spinner and hit the ball straight up. The pressure of not moving the game, as well as the partnership along, seemed to get to him. After that the Proteas’ lower order folded and England got an innings lead, which proved vital in the end.
The South Africans have a lot of international experience in their backroom staff, and they need to guide the newbies in the team and be a lot more proactive in sending out messages to the players in certain game situations.
The Proteas could have saved, maybe even won, the Newlands Test, but failed to take control of the contest with the bat in the first innings, while their tactics with the ball – on the fourth morning when they didn’t take the new ball immediately – left a lot of people baffled.
There are two Tests left in this series. The Proteas can’t afford to miss many more key moments to put the English under pressure.
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