Beware of 2nd Test syndrome!
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
After their comprehensive win at the Oval, the South African cricketers will have to avoid what has become a distressing second Test syndrome if they are to clinch the series against England at Headingley, starting on Thursday.
In rapid succession, the Proteas have started a series strongly, only to make a hash of the next match.
It started in 2009/10 when South Africa came within one wicket of beating England at Centurion, then lost the second Test by an innings. A few months later they won the first Test in India by an innings and lost the second, also by an innings.
Since then three successive home series have followed the same pattern ? against India in 2010/11, and Australia and Sri Lanka last season ? a big win in the first Test was followed by defeat in the next Test.
Of those defeats, perhaps the most disappointing was against Australia when the Proteas had a golden opportunity to win a home series against their great rivals for the first time in 42 years. They won the toss on a good Wanderers batting pitch and should have been able to bat the Australians out of the game to clinch a two-match series.
Instead, one batsman after another virtually gave his wicket away and South Africa were bowled out on the first day. Despite the experience in the batting line-up it was a performance that reeked of immaturity.
It was Gary Kirsten?s first series as coach and one senses that some meaningful progress has been made on the mental front. There was a ruthlessness about the cricket at the Oval that was not in evidence on that dismal day at the Wanderers - a determination not to give wickets away that was so successful that only four men got to the crease.
The batting feast at the Oval meant that AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy did not get to the crease. De Villiers made 80 in a two-day match against Worcestershire on Friday but the other two have yet to get among the runs in four non-Test innings. Rudolph, though, claimed not to be concerned as he looked forward to playing again on what was his home ground for five years while he played for Yorkshire.
Rudolph had an interesting take on the Headingley pitch. Although it has a reputation for being bowler friendly, Rudolph said it was the sort of surface on which batsmen could ?go big? ? provided they achieve the small matter of mastering the swing and seam movement that are often to be found in Leeds.
The sky was heavily overcast on Tuesday and the pitch looked green when the groundsman briefly rolled the covers away. That, of course, could change dramatically by Thursday but the weather forecast indicates that clouds and some rain are likely during the Test. Colin Bryden will be covering the England-South Africa series. He has reported on all four of South Africa’s previous tours of England since 1994.Disclaimer:
Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.