‘STILL WORK TO BE DONE’

Domingo knows that the Proteas aren’t the com­plete pack­age yet

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS –

THE Proteas are a good Test side, a still evolv­ing Test side and a Test side that has plenty more to of­fer and play for.

The No 1 rank­ing re­mains a goal. Find­ing a re­li­able third seamer is a cru­cial short-term tar­get to help them achieve that goal, but in var­i­ous ar­eas, from the open­ing com­bi­na­tion to the front­line spin­ner, they seem to be in a good space. Sri Lanka would be able to at­test. The de­feats just kept get­ting big­ger for An­gelo Mathews’ men; by 206 runs in the first Test, 282 in the sec­ond, and the series con­cluded with an in­nings and 182-run loss in­side three days at the Wan­derer,s where they faced just 88 overs in to­tal.

For South Africa it’s a won­der­ful turn­around from where the side were less than a year ago. Losses to In­dia and Eng­land, a stun­ningly in­ept World T20 cam­paign and then an­other fail­ure in a tri­an­gu­lar One-Day series in the West Indies didn’t en­gen­der much faith in the play­ers or the coach­ing staff.

But series wins against New Zealand, Aus­tralia and now Sri Lanka have shown that lessons have been learned and that de­spite re­cent drama over Kol­pak con­tracts, those who take to the field for the Proteas do so with a clear fo­cus.

“It’s the start of a new jour­ney for this par­tic­u­lar team af­ter the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the last year. We are not the fin­ished ar­ti­cle. There is room for im­prove­ment in ev­ery depart­ment,” coach Rus­sell Domingo re­marked.

He’s still push­ing for con­sis­tency from the front-line bats­men but feels that in JP Du­miny, Man of the Match at the Wan­der­ers, Dean El­gar, the Man of the Series, and Stephen Cook con­sis­tency is start­ing to oc­cur. “There hasn’t been a hot streak among the bat­ters, but we are slowly start­ing to get there.”

Whether AB de Vil­liers will be in­volved at some point to strengthen the bat­ting, Domingo could not say. De Vil­liers is ex­pected back from in­jury by the time of the third T20 In­ter­na­tional against Sri Lanka. “We need to sit down and plan his fu­ture. AB’s got to make that de­ci­sion ... he has to make the de­ci­sion that he’s avail­able (for Test matches). He has to make some de­ci­sions about his fu­ture in cricket.”

The ma­jor con­cern is the bowl­ing. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel re­main side­lined and for the tour to New Zealand start­ing next month, South Africa will have to do with­out them. In help­ful con­di­tions at the Wan­der­ers there were en­cour­ag­ing signs from Wayne Par­nell and debu­tant Duanne Olivier, who shared 11 wick­ets, but Domingo and Faf du Plessis want greater ac­cu­racy and con­sis­tency from the third seamer.

“It’s great that they got wick­ets,” said Du Plessis. “We know with KG (Rabada) and Vern (Philander) at the mo­ment they are ex­treme world class bowlers, they are re­lent­less. The plan is now for the third seamer to get to that level, hit­ting ar­eas con­sis­tently, mak­ing sure that when you’re not tak­ing wick­ets, you are not leak­ing runs ei­ther. (Par­nell and Olivier) will say they leaked too many runs in this game, but they got wick­ets.”

Though he played no part in the fi­nal Test, Du Plessis was very pleased with the rapid de­vel­op­ment of spin­ner Keshav Maharaj, who claimed seven wick­ets in the first two Tests, but as im­por­tantly con­ceded runs at a rate of just 3.14 per over.

Af­ter a trou­bled last year, Domingo’s not tak­ing any­thing for granted as he looks ahead

there’s the tour to New Zealand, a long tour of Eng­land, and In­dia ar­rive here later this year. “I don’t look too far ahead in my coach­ing ca­reer. You never know what’s around the cor­ner in coach­ing. The sup­port I get from the play­ers is what’s the most im­por­tant thing. If you have the sup­port of the play­ers, that’s all that mat­ters. I’ve al­ways felt I’ve had that.”

He asked that the South African pub­lic be pa­tient as well. “South African cricket has more chal­lenges than most other cricket na­tions in the world, that’s the truth,” said Domingo.

“In terms of fi­nances, Kol­paks, the make-up of the team, that’s just the way it is. Yet we al­ways tend to find our­selves in the top three more times than not. There’s a lot to be ap­pre­cia­tive of in the way South African cricket op­er­ates and the way the play­ers go about their busi­ness. Not many teams face the sort of chal­lenge we face. The pub­lic just ex­pect you to be No 1 at ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing and that’s just not pos­si­ble.

“You want to get to the top, but it doesn’t hap­pen quickly. In­dia are the best side at the mo­ment. They are play­ing a lot of Tests at home and do­ing so very well. We’ve got to win ev­ery series we play; that’s the bot­tom line and if we do that then the rank­ings look af­ter them­selves.” NOT GET­TING AHEAD OF HIM­SELF: Rus­sell Domingo, coach of South Africa, knows bet­ter than most the ups-and-downs that come with be­ing an in­ter­na­tional coach and he knows there is plenty of work still to be done by the Proteas.

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