Domingo: The last hur­rah?

Proteas have to give coach an early birthday present and ‘last’ vic­tory song

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - LUN­GANI ZAMA Tests hasn’t been par­tic­u­larly good and it’s been more a case of one team’s er­rors and their in­abil­ity to re­cover from them that has seen such mas­sive mar­gins in terms of the re­sults. As far as TV net­works who broad­cast the matches here live

IT HAS been a long, long tour for South Africa’s crick­eters. When the itin­er­ary for the UK trip first sur­faced, there were con­cerns about the length of it all; Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy, then the T20 se­ries, and onto the much-an­tic­i­pated four-Test main course.

In their am­bi­tions and plans, the Proteas may well have hoped to ar­rive in Manch­ester with a good story to tell. A tale of vic­tory, per­haps a tro­phy, the oblig­a­tory Lord’s triumph and, per­haps, he­roes anew emerg­ing from the squad.

By all ac­counts, the com­plete op­po­site has oc­curred. The Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy was an un­mit­i­gated disas­ter, sand­wiched by ODI and T20 se­ries’ against Eng­land which set the tourists back fur­ther still, and now the Test se­ries can only end in a share of the spoils, at best.

On top of all the bones of con­tem­pla­tion they nib­bled on dur­ing the bus ride from Lon­don to Manch­ester, Faf du Plessis and his men will be well aware that they could be shar­ing a dress­ing-room with coach Rus­sell Domingo,

for the last time over the next week.

Domingo re-ap­plied for his job at the 11th hour, but it is be­lieved that he is un­likely to get an­other term. In­cred­i­bly, the cer­tainty that sur­rounded the team less than a year ago, as they se­cured a third straight se­ries triumph in Australia, has with­ered away dra­mat­i­cally.

There are top-or­der con­cerns, a mid­dle-or­der go­ing through a run-famine, a bowl­ing at­tack that has sel­dom struck as a unit on this tour and, in the midst of all that, a coach who may well be sur­vey­ing his fi­nal hur­rah.

Du Plessis has long been an ad­mirer of Domingo and his man­age­ment style. The Test cap­tain chal­lenged Domingo to be more demon­stra­tive dur­ing ‘that’ bos­ber­aad last Au­gust, and there was an up­ward curve in in­ten­sity and, sub­se­quently, re­sults since then.

Far from tak­ing it the wrong way, Domingo took the chal­lenge as just that – un­til the Cricket South Africa bomb­shell about Domingo’s job. Though it was quickly ex­plained away as pro­ce­dure, the tim­ing smacked of dis­re­gard.

Du Plessis and part-time in­ter­na­tional AB de Vil­liers, threw their weight be­hind Domingo, but the die had been cast. Noth­ing has been the same since.

In fact, in the af­ter­math of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy exit to In­dia at The Oval, the Proteas coach cut a rather fed-up fig­ure, one bereft of an­swers about the fu­ture and where the team might go next. At that point, he looked gatvol.

Off the field, there were per­sonal cir­cum­stances that have cast a har­row­ing torch of per­spec­tive on the big­ger pic­ture, Domingo hav­ing to deal with death of his mother be­fore the Lord’s Test.

Re­sults on the field have fluc­tu­ated vi­o­lently.

No two per­for­mances have mir­rored each other; a lash­ing at Lord’s, fol­lowed by a triumph at Trent Bridge, and then an­other limp Lon­don of­fer­ing at The Oval.

The se­ries as a whole has pro­duced flick­ers of bril­liance but most of those flick­ers have come from the home sheds.

Now, as a long tour reaches its fi­nal des­ti­na­tion – and, per­haps, Domingo’s last post – it is a time for men to stand up and give a fit­ting send-off, if this is truly the end for Rus­sell Domingo.

The Port El­iz­a­beth-born Domingo has been around the side since June 2011. He took over full con­trol from Gary Kirsten in Au­gust 2013.

Come the end of this month, when Domingo is back home, the winds of change may well have swept through the Proteas’ dress­ing-room. De Vil­liers has ex­plained that he will make a firm de­ci­sion on the rest of his ca­reer based on the next coach.

Au­gust, then, is a mas­sive month for South African cricket, which­ever way you look at it. Domingo and his side dare not look beyond the next week in Manch­ester, though.

They must show up, if only to re­cover some of the con­sid­er­able pride dented on their 10-week trek across the UK.

At the end of Au­gust, Domingo will cel­e­brate his 43rd birthday. He would be for­given for feel­ing closer to 53, af­ter the grey hairs that the Proteas’ port­fo­lio has given him.

Nat­u­rally, his team would like noth­ing more than to pro­vide an early birthday present – and one last vic­tory song. Tests have been good, and in lo­cal pa­pers and on the web­sites the se­ries is get­ting big cov­er­age, but it also feels like the sport­ing fo­cus is be­ing dragged else­where.

I cov­ered the se­ries between the teams here in 2012 and the first two Tests of that se­ries def­i­nitely went by vir­tu­ally un­no­ticed as the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion started turn­ing to the Olympics, which started four days af­ter The Oval Test con­cluded.

The Games were over by the time the se­ries got back to Lon­don when Kevin Pi­etersen’s text-gate scan­dal and sub­se­quent suspension meant the se­ries was on the front and back pages and the ex­cit­ing se­ries de­cider – which went into the fi­nal ses­sion of the last day – en­sured that match was a mem­o­rable one.

Once again, though, it feels like the cur­rent se­ries is oc­cur­ring in the shad­ows. Cer­tainly, the run to the fi­nal and the sub­se­quent triumph of the Eng­land Women’s team in the World Cup gar­nered a fair amount of at­ten­tion of all the ma­jor daily pub­li­ca­tions.

It may turn out that when peo­ple re­call the sum­mer of cricket in Eng­land of 2017, it will be Heather Knight and her side, rather the Joe Root’s team, who will be re­mem­bered more.

And just as the ex­cite­ment of the Women’s team is start­ing to die down, along came Usain Bolt yes­ter­day, to draw at­ten­tion to the World Athletics Cham­pi­onships start­ing in east Lon­don to­mor­row – the same day the fourth Test starts in Manch­ester. Bolt, if all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, will run the 100m fi­nal on Satur­day night – guess where most peo­ple’s at­ten­tion will be?

Moeen Ali pro­vided a mo­ment for the ages with his hat-trick that ended the third Test, but in truth, the cricket in the first three

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