Proteas’ bewitching batting woes continue
Day 4 of 5: England 353 and 313/8 decl. South Africa 175 and 117/4
WHOEVER becomes South Africa’s next coach has an enormous task on his hands to fix the team’s batting, which has been alarmingly inconsistent over the last two years.
In India in 2015 it was easy to explain away the problems given the raging turners prepared for two of the Tests there. It was also a long tour, and the South Africans were simply worn down.
There’s been some bad selection – Stiaan van Zyl was retained far too long as an opener – while JP Duminy was given a few too many chances. Of course, the natural question to ask is, who in domestic cricket can be picked?
In truth two options – Theunis de Bruyn and Aiden Markram – are already in this squad. As is Heino Kuhn, the form batsmen on the domestic scene in the last two years.
South Africa has struggled to notch up big totals in the last couple of years going past 400 only six times in 22 Tests – two of those coming against Sri Lanka at home last summer.
With the exception of Temba Bavuma, whose temperament and technique have made him an important cog in the middle order, Quinton de Kock – whose contributions from the No 7 position often pulled the side out of the mire last summer – and Dean Elgar, whose resilience has been allied to consistency in the last 18 months, South Africa’s batting can’t be said to be secure.
They’ve tried to change openers – Elgar’s had five different opening partners in the last 22 Tests. They’ve also shifted around the middle order, moved from seven front-line batsmen to six in this series and now shifted De Kock from seven to No 4 to try and solve the problem with that inconsistency, but nothing’s worked.
Du Plessis said before this Test he wasn’t concerned at the lack of hundreds from his batsmen in the last four and half matches – citing green pitches as an excuse. That may just be an attempt by the captain to take the pressure off his batsmen – but i has not worked in this match.
On the one hand, England’s bowlers deserve credit for the accuracy and consistency they’ve shown here.
They kept Hashim Amla in a vice-like grip throughout his 49 minute stay at the crease yesterday – relentlessly attacking his off-stump – although as Graeme Smith pointed out on radio commentary, he didn’t feel that South Africa’s most experienced player was assertive enough.
Kuhn is jumping around too much, Amla is under pressure because he’s usually arriving at the crease too early, while De Kock is growing accustomed to his new position and Du Plessis has shouldered arms to two straight balls in this Test. While the decision to utilise De Kock at No 4 on the surface seems a good one, it may be one spot too high in the order, given he will be exposed to fresh Maybe not a Root classic, but the England captain again looked in fine fettle yesterday compiling a 29th Test half-century. A measure of Root’s consistency is that it is the ninth Test match in a row in which he’s made 50 in at least one innings. Being a batsmen who sets high standards for himself, Root will be furious that he has only scored two centuries in that sequence – one of which came at the start of this series. Heino Kuhn’s scored 78 runs in six innings in this series. You could certainly justify the selectors’s call in picking him given his recent form and the paucity of options at the top of the order. But he’s looked jumpy against the new ball and even in his best innings so far, even the 34 he made at Trent Bridge wasn’t all that secure. Would the selectors be brave enough to call up Aiden Markram or is Kuhn deserving of another go? To be fair to him, he’s not the only problem with South Africa’s batting at the moment. There’s X-factor and then there’s no factor and Morris,pictured, – much like Wayne Parnell – moves bowlers and a harder ball, all while carrying a heavy workload as the wicketkeeper.
In this Test, he’s been dismissed twice when aiming to hit the full moving ball to midwicket, closing the face and in the first innings getting caught in the gully off the leading edge, while in the second dig yesterday, he was bowled by Ben Stokes.
South Africa were left the task of batting 138 overs to save the Test when Joe Root declared at too violently between the two. He recovered well at Trent Bridge and bowled a couple of mean spells up there to help South Africa win. Here, his line and length has been erratic and when South Africa have needed to halt the game, he’s been incapable of doing so. In 28 overs in this Test, he’s bowled one maiden and conceded 161 runs. The selectors will stick with him for now, you’d think. But the onus is on Morris to find a level in his play that will
make him reliable to his captain. tea, with a lead of 491 runs. The runs were inconsequential but this was to be an examination of South Africa’s fighting qualities.
Only Elgar and Bavuma have shown the stomach for it, battling through 21 overs yesterday evening in a partnership that is currently worth 65 runs.
Only thrice have teams successfully batted through the last day of a Test when they’ve been four wickets down; Michael Atherton’s famous 185 at the Wanderers “When I look at him he doesn’t provide me with a lot of confidence. The way that he plays, Australia might be quite a scary place for him.” – Graeme Smith on Keating Jennings
It’s going to be warm tomorrow, with forecasts suggesting 21 degrees celcius as a maximum. The pitch remains helpful for bowlers, but it is by no means a minefield. Because most of the match has taken place in cool temperatures under dark skies, whatever moisture still remains will be baked out and it should still be good for batting. The odd ball is keeping low, but that’s not too disconcerting and there isn’t drastic turn like there was at Lord’s. in 1995 saw England draw there, Matthew Prior hung on with the tail in Auckland in 2013 for England and Du Plessis, on debut at Adelaide in 2012 did the same for South Africa against the Australians.
So, Elgar (72*) and Bavuma (16*) don’t have far to look for inspiration or advice.
If they do, they’ll be celebrated, but that doesn’t mean South Africa’s batting foibles would have been solved.