Cape Town - Proteas head coach, Ottis Gibson, says his squad remains focused on the cricket ahead of the second Sunfoil Test match against Australia starting in Port Elizabeth on Friday, despite ongoing off-field distractions.
The Proteas regrouped in the coastal city on Wednesday afternoon with a lengthy practice session at St George’s Park.
Gibson says the squad is in good spirits despite the disappointing 118-run loss in the first Test in Durban and is motivated to put in a series-levelling performance in the second Test.
“The team morale is very good,” he said to the media in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday. “We are the Proteas, we back each other up. We are trying to focus on ourselves and to focus on the cricket.”
The coach has asked for an improved performance with the bat after an encouraging stand in the second innings, and believes his batsmen will be better suited to adapt and to counter Australia’s attack, and in particular Mitchell Starc. The seven-batter formula proved to be effective for the team in Durban, but that may change for the second match depending on conditions.
“We have to bat better,” Gibson stressed. “In the second innings when our best batsmen were facing him (Starc), not to say he wasn’t a threat, but the threat wasn’t as great like when our lower-order batters were facing him. Our top order batsmen have to bat a lot better.
“When you look at the nature of the pitch and the Aussie line-up you feel that you need an extra batsman,” he said. “We bowled them out twice but we weren’t able to get enough runs in the first innings. You can’t bat badly in your first innings against a top team like Australia and expect to win the match. We gave ourselves a good chance of winning in the end, the poor batting in the first innings cost us.”
Gibson expects a ‘typical’ Port Elizabeth wicket, which by past accounts will be slow with the opportunity to extract reverse-swing. The last time the Proteas played Australia at St George’s Park, Dale Steyn served up a fiery second-innings spell of 4/55 with a reversing ball to help the team to a series-levelling 231-run win. The Proteas will be without Steyn this time around, but have enough ammunition in the attack to make an impact.
“We will look at what is the best team to play in this match,” Gibson said. “They have Starc. We have seen how Starc has bowled to our tail, he has been very aggressive but has also pitched the ball up and hit the stumps, he has been a challenge for us. We have Rabada, even Keshav (Maharaj) bowled really well. We have to find a way to get their tail out, it might not always be with fast bowling, the spinner can come in and try to disrupt the tail that way. Everyone is looking forward to the cricket, all the off-field stuff must remain off the field. We want to get back to the cricket.”