Domingo rel­ishes the chal­lenges which lay ahead

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

RUS­SELL Domingo ad­mits that the Proteas, de­spite being ranked no.2 in the Test for­mat, are still a “long way from being the fin­ished ar­ti­cle.”

South Africa lost both Tests in Lon­don by hefty mar­gins – 211 runs at Lord’s and 239 runs at The Oval – and have to win in Manch­ester from Fri­day to sal­vage the se­ries. That won’t be easy. If the trend of this se­ries is to con­tinue, South Africa has to bat first, bat big, thereby land­ing the first punch and Eng­land will crum­ble.

Ex­cept the English see a big op­por­tu­nity now and by ac­ci­dent ap­pear to have stum­bled onto a more bal­anced com­bi­na­tion than the one that played the first two Tests. Toby Roland-Jones is a fine sup­port bowler be­hind James Anderson and Stu­art Broad, and Tom West­ley looks a solid choice at No.3 Mean­while South Africa are try­ing to bed in a new opener, a new no.4 and a new lower or­der all-rounder – none of whom played well at The Oval. “There’s a lot of tinker­ing that still needs to take place,,” said Domingo.

“It might not have shown in this game but we’re get­ting a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing as to what the best XI will be go­ing forward,” he added. As far as the Old Traf­ford Test is con­cerned, Faf du Plessis has stated he’d pre­fer if Heino Kuhn con­tin­ued to open de­spite av­er­ag­ing 13 in the se­ries.

“Heino has a fan­tas­tic record and is a great team man. He has some tech­ni­cal stuff he can work on but he’s earned the right to be given an op­por­tu­nity to play be­cause of the sheer weight of runs for SA ‘A’ and the Ti­tans. So sure it hasn’t been an ideal start, but it’s a hard job. Hope­fully he can turn the cor­ner and make a big play soon.”

“Also, the player that’s not play­ing is al­ways bet­ter than the one who is. That’s just the way it is.”

In this case that player is Ai­den Markram – ini­tially cho­sen in an ob­server ca­pac­ity – he’s ac­tu­ally had a lot of game-time in the se­ries as 12th man, field­ing more than Ver­non Phi­lan­der did in the last Test.

Over­all South Africa’s bat­ting is a ma­jor con­cern. In eight Tests in 2017, South Africa’s bats­men have scored six cen­turies – Dean El­gar has three. Pitches and the qual­ity of the bowlers they’ve faced have all been for­warded as rea­sons for the paucity of Test hun­dreds.

By con­trast the bowlers de­light in play­ing on sur­faces that of­fer them as­sis­tance – and said Domingo, the South African bats­men pre­fer it that way too. They’ve been able to scrap in Ho­bart, Welling­ton and Not­ting­ham to get enough runs for the bowlers to work with, and it’s proven a suc­cess­ful strat­egy.

Of course the onus is on the bowlers to make good use of the con­di­tions – some­thing they man­aged at Trent Bridge, but which they pal­pa­bly failed to do at The Oval. Much has been made of the se­lec­tion of an ill Phi­lan­der. It was a risk that in hind­sight was not worth tak­ing but even so South Africa’s bowl­ing was poor – in help­ful con­di­tions – high­lighted by Mor­ris con­ced­ing runs at a rate of 5.75 an over in the match.

“I don’t think he’s a front­three seamer; he’s go­ing to be your fourth seamer,” said Domingo.

“In this par­tic­u­lar game he had to play as your third seamer be­cause of Ver­non’s in­ac­tiv­ity. So his overs are al­ways go­ing to be niceties to have.”

That worked in the sec­ond Test where Mor­ris dis­missed Joe Root and Alas­tair Cook, with two snorters, but his con­sis­tency needs work.

South Africa’s bal­ance with four seam­ers and the spin­ner is one that works with this par­tic­u­lar squad. De­spite this hav­ing been a dif­fi­cult tour – both on and off the field for Domingo – he says the chal­lenges faced are pre­cisely why he’s so en­thused about stay­ing on as head coach.

“If you were rock­ing up with Smith, Kal­lis, Steyn, Morkel, Phi­lan­der, de Vil­liers, it prob­a­bly gets eas­ier. But here your work is cut out,” he said. “You’ve got to jug­gle and and try to find the right bal­ance. That’s al­ways ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing and that’s why you coach, I sup­pose, to get through those type of pe­ri­ods.”

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