Proteas

Why Proteas may need plenty more

2016-11-26 18:25
Stephen Cook (Getty Images)

Cape Town - If recent statistics at Adelaide Oval for the fourth innings of a Test match are used as a yardstick, South Africa probably require appreciably more runs in their second innings to make a real fight of the third Test against Australia at its business end.

The Proteas ended day three a precarious 70 runs in credit, with only four wickets remaining and every ounce of their renowned fighting spirit necessary if they are still to realise dreams of a novel 3-0 sweep in the series.

Much is likely to depend on the prosperity or otherwise of the seventh-wicket alliance between opening batsman Stephen Cook, who has looked largely watertight thus far for his vigilant, even-paced and unbeaten 81, and attack-minded wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, not yet off the mark but in sprightly form with the blade.

Once those two have parted, there are only the tenacious qualities of lower-order all-rounder Vernon Philander and the more genuine tailenders Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi to follow, so it was little wonder that former Test batsman and national selector Ashwell Prince said in his SuperSport pundit capacity after the close that “the next two wickets will be crucial for whether South Africa have something to bowl at”.

Considering how frequently in modern times the Baggy Greens’ batting line-up has succumbed to a “skittles syndrome” to the Proteas - in either country - it may be tempting for SA supporters to mischievously believe the Aussies already face the proverbial “tricky little target” given their psychological frailties.

In reality, of course, it is far likelier that South Africa do somehow need to eke out a minimum of another 100 or 120 runs to be able to set the host nation something considerably close to 200 and the bowlers then throw the kitchen sink at them.

Kepler Wessels believes “180 (as a target) gives South Africa a chance” and that “220 to 250 would be quite tough to get”.

So hope springs eternal for Faf du Plessis’s charges, on a surface that is still a pretty good, true enough one offering a bit to both batsman and bowler.

The bad news from a Proteas point of view, statistically, is that recent Tests at the venue – admittedly mostly more orthodox, daytime ones – suggest the fourth knock is seldom played out on a genuinely deteriorating “minefield”.

Final-innings scores have, generally, been reasonably high over the course of the last handful of Test matches there.

It is true that the last Test at Adelaide Oval, also a day/night affair last season, saw Australia make heavy weather of chasing down a target of only 187 against New Zealand; they eventually got home for the loss of seven wickets.

But by all accounts that was a sportier surface than the one currently being used, and the notably low-scoring game was wrapped up in three days.

Before that, lengthier innings have tended to be a hallmark of the teams batting last.

In December 2014, India registered a brave 315 all out chasing a target of 364, a year earlier England got to 312 all out chasing a mammoth 531, and in November 2012, of course, the very Proteas survived all of 148 overs (Du Plessis 110 not out in 466 obstinate minutes) for 248 for eight and the last draw at the ground.

This match seems highly unlikely to end in stalemate with two full days to go and clear skies predicted, and the Proteas aren’t quite dead yet.

But they are staring down a barrel.

Can they flash out a hand and turn the gun around?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rob houwing  |  cricket
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South Africa v Sri Lanka, Port Elizabeth 10:00
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