Cape Town - Proteas women's coach Hilton Moreeng lamented the batting unit's inconsistency, calling for them to learn to adapt to the change in formats a lot faster in order to ensure that the team gets future series off to a positive note.
South Africa suffered a 17-run defeat to West Indies after failing to chase down their 125-run target in their five-match T20 series opener but the coach is confident that the team can and will bounce back accordingly.
The remainder of the series will be played at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Trinidad starting this Friday night.
"The turn-around time regarding the two formats (ODI and T20) is something for us to learn to adapt quicker to," he said. "You could see that most of the batters were still in ODI mode and then as the innings progressed they switched gears but by then it was too late. With the World T20 coming up really soon, this is something that we need to correct and very quickly.
"I'd like to see a lot more intent as far as batting is concerned," he continued. "The 124 that was posted is a score that I think we should have been able to chase down easily on any given day but it just didn't happen. I want to see more partnerships being formed and better execution of the various skills that this team is blessed with in the matches to follow. The players are also disappointed with our start and I know that they are eager to get onto the park and rectify what they did in the first match."
Moreeng is determined to build on the positives that he noted from the lost match which saw four debutants in the South African playing eleven. He backs his side to level the series when they come up against the hosts in Friday's day/night clash.
He also had high praise for the bowling unit, which has looked the most stable on this tour even though they have had to do without the experience of Shabnim Ismial and Ayabonga Khaka.
The former pulled out of the tour after her father suffered a heart attack shortly before the team was due to depart for the Caribbean while the latter is in the middle of her rehabilitation programme after undergoing shoulder surgery following the team's return from their tour of England.
"There were a lot of positives to take away as far as the first half of the game was concerned," the coach explained. "The way that we bowled and fielded we were very happy with, it's something that we can definitely build on. The way that the youngsters came in on a game like that and enjoyed themselves, the kind of energy they brought to the team and went about the match we were also very happy with. There's a lot that we've addressed as a squad, I think we can expect a lot from the players in the second game.
"It's refreshing when you look at the depth of our bowling attack," he went on. "We have a lot of talented players coming through. There's players that want to play and we can see what representing their country means to them. The emotion that was on the youngsters' faces when they go their caps, it told a story and you can see that they want to stay here. It's also very encouraging. The options are growing, the youngsters are pushing hard for positions which puts us as a country in a healthy space."
Moreeng was also pleased with Chloe Tryon's leadership in the match. Dané van Niekerk mildly sprained her ankle in the last ODI and missed the first match as she continued treatment. As vice-captain, Tryon took the reins and did an admirable job in the coach's assessment.
"Chloe did well as the captain on the day," he stated. "The nice thing about this team is that we have a solid leadership group that includes a vice-captain who sits in discussions and planning meetings and understands what needs to happen and where we want to see the team going, so it wasn’t something new to her."
When asked whether the team missed Van Niekerk's presence and influence as a player, he said:
"As far as the team missing Dané, as a captain she brings her own special brand of leadership to the group and she's had quite a year so far and has been our most consistent batter so in that respect yes, she was missed, but the team needs to learn to play with any combination and on the day, we needed players to raise their hands and take responsibility of the batting and that’s where we fell short."
With the team sitting on back-to-back losses (including the third ODI) Moreeng said he understood where some concerns were coming from but strongly believes that the team is still far from hitting panic buttons.
While there is a lot of room for improvement, he took the time to praise players who have taken the opportunities they have received to grow their personal game and make positive contributions towards to the team's objectives.
"There's always work to be done, especially after consecutive losses but we're still a long way away from running for the panic button," he continued. "I think one of our major positives from the last tour we played in England is the much-improved fielding. We've got energetic players who can move really fast and we needed to capitalize on that and use it to our advantage. In this format, fielding is going to be one of the major keys to winning games and we’ve made big inroads in that area.
"It's been particularly pleasing to see Masabata Klaas coming into her own and taking ownership of the opening bowler role alongside Marizanne Kapp. That's the kind of growth we're looking for from players at this level. Tumi (Sekhukhune) has taken to international cricket very well and I'm looking forward to seeing what more she can do and Saarah Smith had a really good T20 debut, announcing herself on the world stage. All of the youngsters in fact have been like sponges, absorbing information and showing a lot of promise when given the opportunity.
"We just need the last aspect, which is our batting to kick on. If that unit starts firing the way that we know they can, this could be one of the most difficult teams to play against."
Friday's match will start at 19:00 local time (01:00 SAST).