Cape Town - Easily
South Africa’s best, most durable innings of the highly problematic short Test
series in Sri Lanka was their fourth and final one ... quite possibly sending out
an important message.
READ: Drop Quinny? Hold your horses!
They earned belated
plaudits from certain home commentators for mustering a determined 290 - even
if it still fell way short of the 490 target in the second Test at Colombo SSC
- and negotiating 86.5 overs in doing so.
total runs and weight-of-overs terms, it substantially eclipsed anything they
had posted at the crease in their pallid first three knocks of a series
emphatically lost 2-0.
It seemed to
indicate that, just possibly, the Proteas were finally getting to grips, to
some degree, with the conditions - albeit well after the fact by then.
Bear in mind
that in times gone by, a lifting-of-curve phenomenon might well have been fully
expected by that point, given the immeasurably greater acclimatisation time
(usually involving a few proper, first-class matches against
franchises/provinces) a touring group would have had by then.
The tight, congested
and much more multi-pronged nature of international tours these days has almost
unavoidably slashed that “prep” phase for touring outfits planet-wide, of
course; the Proteas are no special exception.
said, and with hindsight a wonderful science, it still seemed an awfully big
ask for Faf du Plessis and company to truly hit the ground running in the
five-day format - the one generally requiring the best levels of stamina, too -
straight out of the domestic winter and with such contrasting, humid weather
and pitch characteristics only additional challenges.
I believe it
is extremely feasible that the Proteas would have put up altogether steelier
resistance (even if not necessarily won or split the series, of course) had the
ODI and Twenty20 fare come first.
when the Proteas grittily won the corresponding 2014 Test series in Sri Lanka, they
had played the one-day stuff first.
For all the
controversial, gradual marginalisation and shrinkage in volume of Test cricket these
days, at least for the time being tours still tend to be best remembered for
what happened in the long-format battle, don’t they?
technical and mental issues played a considerable part in their unexpectedly
heavy demise, but the first Test at Galle, in particular, also revealed pretty
clear, aggravating signs that SA were short of a gallop at that juncture ...
which hardly helps amidst the multitude of other obstacles on the Subcontinent.
just for example, always value recent “miles in the legs” ahead of the
challenge of potentially bowling 20 or more overs a day over the course of a
Test in punishing heat.
cases in their ranks, that luxury had been absent.
Was it any
coincidence that, at Galle, a still acutely ring-rusty South Africa twice in a
row - to varying extents - demoralizingly let the Sri Lankan tail off the hook?
In the first
innings, the ‘Lankans escaped from 176 for eight to a wholly more respectable 287
all out (potentially killer stuff, really, when you are scrapping away on the
Subcontinent) and in the second the home team’s last-wicket partnership
produced a nuisance-value 28 runs.
You did pick
up a sense of the SA fielding side collectively running out of gas a bit, in
difficult to know what logistical or other factors were at play in Cricket
South Africa agreeing to the tour itinerary with their Sri Lankan counterparts,
but might it not be a better idea, for future purposes when the Proteas are
required to visit the Subcontinent during our winter, to try to insist on the
limited-overs section coming first?
most of the major SA Test batsmen, for example, are players who also represent
the one-day cause.
well have gained greater value - and key confidence - by playing some knocks in
prior-staged limited-overs internationals, which also might well have been on
slightly easier, less dry and dusty tracks from a stroke-play point of view.
It is a
known fact that, on India’s current, keenly-monitored major tour of England,
the Indians were extremely happy - and may have exerted conscious pressure to
make it happen? - to have the one-day fare ahead of the blue-chip, five-Test
As far back
as April, their head coach Ravi Shastri publicly enthused: “We (will be) in
England almost a month before the first Test match … that gives us that much
more time to prepare.”
Many of the
SA Test party in Sri Lanka might have relished similar liberty ...
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