Proteas set to break bad spell

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

A year ago, the Proteas nar­rowly won a rain-af­fected two-test series against New Zealand that would lead to a glo­ri­ous run. The vic­tory against the Black Caps was fol­lowed by an un­prece­dented 5-0 one-day in­ter­na­tional (ODI) series white­wash of Aus­tralia at home; a 2-1 test series win in Aus­tralia; white­washes of 3-0 and 5-0 against Sri Lanka at home and a clean sweep in all for­mats against New Zealand in their back yard. Yet it took just a month in Eng­land to frit­ter all that good­will away with a 2-1 ODI series defeat to the Poms, a group stages exit from the ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy and an­other 2-1 defeat at the hands of the English in the T20 series.

For­mer Proteas left-arm spin­ner Robin Peter­son is as baf­fled as any­one about the rea­son for the swift change in for­tunes for Rus­sell Domingo’s team, but he has a the­ory.

“Be­fore the tour, the team seemed a lit­tle dis­jointed,” he said. “Some of the guys were in the IPL, some were at home and some were play­ing County Cricket. In the past, there’s al­ways been a build-up.

“But it’s no fault of the play­ers and man­age­ment, it’s just the way the sched­ule’s gone.”

Adding to the un­cer­tainty go­ing into the four-test series – which be­gins at Lord’s on Thurs­day – were a few other dis­rup­tions.

Head coach Domingo had to re­turn home dur­ing the T20 series to be with his mother, who was in­volved in an ac­ci­dent; fast bowler Vernon Phi­lan­der is in a race against time to re­cover from an an­kle in­jury; and captain Faf du Plessis is in his own race for avail­abil­ity af­ter becoming a father on Thurs­day.

About the test series, Peter­son said the re­sults of the past month would def­i­nitely af­fect the Proteas: “You’d be a fool to think it wouldn’t af­fect them be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the team was part of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy, and they lost the ODIs and the T20 series.

“But I must be honest that some­times, with be­ing on tour, a change of for­mat can rein­vig­o­rate the play­ers. There are also some new faces in the team.”

The doubts sur­round­ing Du Plessis’ in­volve­ment in the first test – he’ll only re­turn to London if he is sat­is­fied his wife and child are set­tled af­ter a dif­fi­cult birth – mean that opener Dean El­gar, who will get a new part­ner in debu­tant Heino Kuhn, is on standby for the cap­taincy.

Should Du Plessis not make it, it’ll bring The­u­nis de Bruyn, a vet­eran of one test, into play at prob­a­bly num­ber five or six in the bat­ting line-up, mean­ing more dis­rup­tions to the team that swept all be­fore it in tests in the past year.

“They haven’t had con­sis­tency, so it’s dif­fi­cult to say what a new-look team is go­ing to pro­duce,” said Peter­son.

PHOTO: DAVE ROWLAND / GETTY IMAGES

TEST Kag­iso Rabada and com­pany will have to up the ante for the Eng­land test series

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