Proteas chas­ing tons of fun at their favourite Oval

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

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.

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