Bor­ing prepa­ra­tions are just per­fect for Proteas

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

While he, the rest of the coach­ing staff and the se­nior play­ers took on ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity in pre­par­ing for the sec­ond Test, Bir­rell said Domingo re­mained in touch on a daily ba­sis. “He was in­volved from afar. It’s tough, los­ing your mother. He’s had a tough few days, he had to do the eu­logy at the ser­vice. He’s had a tough time, our thoughts have been with him. As he said it was fan­tas­tic for him sit­ting on his couch watch­ing us win.”

It hasn’t been an easy tour for South Africa. The One-Day por­tion was poor, the exit from the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy limp and the T20s messy. The Lord’s per­for­mance was dread­ful. Off the field, Domingo has had to deal with tragedy, on it there was that silly sus­pen­sion for Kag­iso Rabada. The mys­tery over who will be the next coach has not made mat­ters any eas­ier, but Bir­rell ex­plained the coach­ing staff has been able to ig­nore that “out­side noise” even as it may im­pact on their fu­ture em­ploy­ment.

Cricket South Africa’s board meets this week to de­ter­mine who will coach the Proteas af­ter this tour. “The Board’s de­ci­sion not on any­one’s mind at all,” said Bir­rell.

“There’s been a lot of un­cer­tainty for many months, I don’t think it’s af­fected the play­ers and it cer­tainly hasn’t af­fected the man­age­ment. We just got on and tried to do the job as best we could. We speak lot about not bring­ing out­side in­flu­ences into our in­ner cir­cle - we work very hard at that.”

The re­turn of skip­per, Faf Du Plessis, was pro­found. His calm­ness, the sim­ple mes­sages to the play­ers and coach­ing staff pro­vided fo­cus that was miss­ing at Lord’s. “This is his team, he’s very much in charge. His lead­er­ship is very strong and very calm. He de­mands in a very pleas­ant way that play­ers re­ally per­form for the team. He never gets an­gry, ob­vi­ously he gets up­set, but doesn’t show that to the team, he’s very strong leader of this group.” The lengthy break - made longer by South Africa wrap­ping up the Trent Bridge Test in­side of four days - be­tween the sec­ond and third Tests is one the Proteas play­ers and coach­ing staff can en­joy. Hashim Amla, Quin­ton de Kock and bat­ting coach Neil McKen­zie have headed back home while the likes of Ver­non Phi­lan­der are pol­ish­ing their golf games.

Quite what im­pact the break will have on the play­ers, is un­known. Some have said they would have pre­ferred the team to be play­ing this week, to crack on and main­tain rhythm and mo­men­tum. Bir­rell sees some pos­i­tives. “Our teams are very good when they are fresh, we need to be fresh to play our best cricket, that’s been proven.”

They will re­gather and start prepa­ra­tions for The Oval Test next Mon­day.

“We are quite ex­cited that we’ve got KG (Rabada) in the sheds, itch­ing to go, well rested...it might be great in hind­sight that he had a bit of a rest,” Bir­rell quipped.

And how will that prepa­ra­tion be han­dled? “When we re­group we will be bor­ing and pre­pare in the same way we did ear­lier.”

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