Du Plessis and his not so merry bats­men

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

FAF DU PLESSIS’S sunny dis­po­si­tion at the weekend stood out from the doom that had en­veloped the South African squad that must try and tie up the Test se­ries against Eng­land start­ing this Fri­day at Trent Bridge.

It’s a group of not so merry men who head to Not­ting­ham Tues­day to start pre­par­ing for the se­cond Test. Sun­day’s ca­pit­u­la­tion in just two and a half hours at Lord’s must be cast from the mem­ory banks. “It’s re­ally im­por­tant that we don’t have that men­tal han­gover given the tour we’ve had so far,” Du Plessis said. “That’s one of my, along with the se­nior play­ers’, most im­por­tant jobs. We must fo­cus our­selves on the next Test.”

It’s been a tough tour for ev­ery­one. There have been per­sonal mat­ters away from train­ing and play­ing that have de­manded at­ten­tion.

From a cricket per­spec­tive, in­juries, a sus­pen­sion for one of the team’s young stars and the lack of form among many of the bats­men has left the side in a quandary.

Du Plessis will de­mand a greater fo­cus and in­ten­sity at train­ing as they seek to elim­i­nate the er­rors which cost them so dearly in the first Test. ‘Prac­tise how you ex­pect to play,’ will be the mantra, so no no-balls and greater lev­els of con­cen­tra­tion dur­ing the field­ing drills, some­thing which was ab­sent ahead of the Lord’s match.

“It’s an easy fix, it’s about our in­ten­sity in train­ing,” Du Plessis re­marked. “Gen­er­ally we are a very good field­ing unit, es­pe­cially in Test cricket in the last year, we’ve had some amaz­ing catches, and great field­ing per­for­mances so I won’t judge us on one per­for­mance.”

Those ar­eas may be an easy fix, but the bat­ting won’t be. South Africa is try­ing to bed in another new open­ing part­ner for Dean El­gar, Hashim Amla’s form is shaky, JP Du­miny is on the way out and The­u­nis de Bruyn’s only played two Tests.

Du Plessis has de­manded more from those who have shown good form re­cently. “Temba (Bavuma) once again is be­ing con­sis­tent, but some­thing Temba needs to work on is to con­vert those scores af­ter those starts. He’s play­ing bril­liantly but he knows that 50s don’t win us matches. All our bat­ters are in the same boat. If you look at one of the dif­fer­ences (in the first Test), it’s that one guy scored 180 and that changes the out­come of the game.”

With re­gards the bowling, Du Plessis will want to as­sess con­di­tions at Not­ting­ham be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion about who will re­place the sus­pended Kag­iso Rabada.

The South Africans will have noted the sta­tis­tics of Eng­land’s two at­tack spear­heads Stu­art Broad and James An­der­son, who both en­joy bowling at Trent Bridge. An­der­son’s picked up 53 wick­ets there at an av­er­age of 19.24 while Broad, who plays for Not­ting­hamshire, has claimed 34 wick­ets there in seven Tests at 18.58

Du Plessis said con­sid­er­a­tion will be given to play­ing four seam­ers, which could mean us­ing just six bats­men. In that case Duanne Olivier and Chris Mor­ris would be con­sid­ered, with De Bruyn then likely to sit out. It’s a risky move given South Africa’s bat­ting trou­bles.

Mean­while Du Plessis spoke out in sup­port of Rabada say­ing he would not ex­pect an apol­ogy from the young fast bowler and that he doesn’t want him to lose his fiery edge.

Rabada shouted “fuck you” when he dis­missed Ben Stokes in Eng­land’s first in­nings, but Du Plessis did not be­lieve the ex­ple­tive was di­rected at the Eng­land all-rounder. “It wasn’t any­thing to do with Ben, (Rabada) didn’t have the rhythm he wanted, it was just frus­tra­tion com­ing through. I’ve played with Ben I can tell you he’s just as fiery but that’s what makes him so com­pet­i­tive and so skill­ful. I called him the dragon in the IPL be­cause he breathes fire when he gets an­gry. That’s im­por­tant, it’s im­por­tant to have char­ac­ters like that. KG must not lose that for one se­cond.”

The mother of na­tional coach Rus­sell Domingo died on Sun­day night fol­low­ing a car ac­ci­dent two weeks ago. Domingo left Lon­don Sun­day af­ter the first Test. It’s not known when or if he’ll re-join the squad.

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