Proteas chasing tons of fun at their favourite Oval
IT MAY be that England have a ton of questions to answer as far as their line-up and style of play is concerned ahead of the third Test, but South Africa go into that match knowing they have room for improvement.
They also need to be wary of any drop in intensity following the lengthy break between Tests. Some players returned yesterday from South Africa where they enjoyed the time off, while others have been dotted around England, staying with friends or spending time on the golf course.
As shrewd a captain as Faf du Plessis is, he’ll be well aware of any sluggishness as the players begin their preparation today. Du Plessis has his family in tow this week. Coach Russell Domingo arrives this morning following the tragic death of his mother, meaning the whole squad will be together for this first time in this series.
They will all be expecting a backlash from Joe Root’s team who’ve taken a hammering in the local media since that 340-run loss at Trent Bridge. England will be poring over the make up of their starting team with Tom Westley of Essex set to make his debut in place of the injured Gary Ballance. Keaton Jennings seems set to retain his spot as Alastair Cook’s opening partner, while a variety of options are available regarding the rest of the starting team – they could retain Liam Dawson and thus utilise the same bowling attack, or they could drop him and go with the extra batsman in Dawid Malan.
South Africa’s batsmen meanwhile face some self-reflection this week too. They may have received praise for their patient and precise approach in the second Test, but they’ll all be aware that they need to turn starts into something substantial. It was Du Plessis who mentioned – after Lord’s – that fifties are nice, but it’s hundreds that win Tests matches.
It’s been five Tests since a South African batsman last scored a Test hundred. That was Dean Elgar, against New Zealand in March. There have been 19 half-centuries since with Quinton de Kock and Du Plessis, tops in that regard with four each.
After the series win against Sri Lanka in January both Du Plessis and Domingo lamented the lack of consistency from the South African batsmen – in terms of turning starts into hundreds. Whatever messages they’ve been sending have clearly not hit home with the batsmen, however. Last summer in nine Tests, South Africa’s batsmen scored 10 Tests MELBOURNE: The Australian cricketers’ union has told players a pay deal may not be struck with the national board before the home “summer of cricket”, which includes the lucrative and highly anticipated Ashes series.
The long-running pay dispute has already scuppered an Australia A tour to South Africa and left upcoming tours of Bangladesh and India in doubt.
The Australian Cricketers’ Association said it had presented a new “Terms Sheet” to Cricket Australia but warned players that a new collective bargaining agreement, known as the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), would take time to complete.
Australia’s home summer kicks off with the first match of the five-Test Ashes series against England in Brisbane from November 23.
Around 230 players have been effectively unemployed since the previous five-year MOU hundreds, the highest being JP Duminy’s 155 against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers. Elgar was South Africa’s most consistent batsman scoring a century in each series last season.
Nevertheless to be a top Test team, the South African batsmen must demand more of themselves. In the detailed analysis they’ll do over the coming days, they’ll see that The Oval – which will host its 100th Test – has been very good for batsmen in the last expired at the end of last month.
Local media reported on Friday that a week of talks between the union and CA had collapsed but the board said they expected them to resume early this week.
“Cricket Australia will not comment on details of the negotiation but are surprised and perplexed at the current situation given progress is being made on a range of issues,” the board said.
The major sticking point in the dispute is Cricket Australia’s insistence that a 20-year-old model, under which players get a fixed percentage of revenue, should be jettisoned.
Cricket Australia believes the revenue-share model is unfit for modern times and is starving grass-roots cricket of funding, while players say it has underpinned the game’s growth and prosperity over the past 20 years.
The ACA said it had made a number of concessions to CA in its ‘Terms Sheet’. few years. Hashim Amla knows just how good, for it was where he scored the South African Test record 311 five years ago. In that same match Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith got big hundreds and in the years since, a further seven centuries have been scored there in four Tests, including Younis Khan’s 218 in last year’s victory for Pakistan.
The Proteas batsmen set a sufficiently solid foundation at Trent Bridge – in difficult conditions – to ensure victory there. Although no-one managed to score more than Amla’s 87, it was notable how the South Africans, Amla in particular, seemed to be getting back into the Test match batting rhythm.
Hopefully for him and the others, the lengthy break between the second and third Tests, has not impeded that rhythm for as recent history shows, The Oval is a ground where batsmen can enjoy themselves.