Kirsten plays down series loss
Durban - Proteas coach Gary Kirsten remains upbeat ahead of the two Test matches against Australia despite his side losing the one-day international (ODI) series here on Friday.
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Taking a more relaxed approach to the three-wicket loss in the third ODI, and the 1-2 ODI-series loss, Kirsten said it was more important that the team spent time in the middle and were match-fit ahead of the two Tests.
"What’s been important in this one-day series is that some guys have got themselves into form and, more importantly, they are game-ready," Kirsten said.
"They’ve had a bit of heavy competition now and we know playing against Australia was never going to be easy.
"It was always going to be a tough battle and it’s been a competitive series so far, so it’s been great from that perspective."
Kirsten admitted he would have liked to have won the series but said the South Africans were outplayed in the last match.
"Obviously we’d like to have closed the series out, but we didn’t," he said.
"I don’t think we played well enough and they played much better than us."
Winning the toss and posting a total of 222 on a wicket which did not offer the usual Kingsmead pace, the hosts struggled to score runs and were unable to lift their run-rate towards the end, despite having wickets in hand.
"I don’t think it was that bad a total," said Kirsten after the match.
"It was very difficult to score freely on that wicket so maybe if we’d got 15-20 more runs it would have made it more interesting, but I didn’t think we batted that badly."
Apart from one loose over from teenager Pat Cummins, in which Hashim Amla hit him for four boundaries, the Australians bowled with discipline and restricted the batsmen and put them under pressure towards the end of the South African innings.
"All our batsmen felt they really struggled to score freely but we also have to give credit to the Australian bowlers," admitted Kirsten.
"I think we only got 48 runs in the last ten (overs) and their bowlers hit really good lengths, so we found it difficult to score.
"We were in a pretty good position towards the end, with wickets in hand, and we thought we could really launch in the last 10 but never got anything going."
Storms had been forecast for the evening, and both sides had to keep in mind the Duckworth Lewis calculation, making it important to score aggressively upfront should there be a rain delay.
While the weather held, Australia adjusted to the bowling conditions and executed with the ball in a more disciplined manner.
"It just boiled down to who bowled better," Kirsten said.
"We accepted the fact that maybe our execution and our bowling wasn’t as good as it could have been at certain times.
"I think it was going to be one of those games where it was going to go down to the wire.
"So we were just out - probably just one wicket out.
"If we’d have picked up another wicket when they still needed 70-80 runs, we could have been right in there."
Kirsten said the team were looking forward to the Test series which gets underway in Cape Town on November 9 and they hoped to have AB de Villiers back in the side by then. "He needs some game time, so he’ll try and play some franchise cricket before the Test series starts but he’s looking good at the moment.
"We look forward to the Tests and I’m feeling confident the guys are getting into some good form, which we need, going into the Test series."