Town - Proteas opener Dean Elgar said
after his gutsy 50 in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test at Centurion
that South Africa was now the hardest place in the world to score runs in Test
It is hard to argue with a guy
that has taken bruises all over the world.
Since coach Ottis Gibson and captain
Faf du Plessis joined forces in August of 2017, there has been a clear shift in
the way the South Africans are approaching their Test cricket.
It starts with the curators and
ends, often, in a Test match that is over well before the allotted five
Du Plessis has made no secret of
the fact that ground staff are asked to prepare wickets that benefit fast
bowling. That is the area where Gibson feels the Proteas are strongest and where
he wants to capitalise.
combination of wicked lateral movement and unpredictable bounce, however, has
made South African strips a nightmare for the batters over the last 18 months.
In the Wanderers Test against
India last year, the limits were pushed too far, and the match was very nearly
called off because the wicket was deemed dangerous.
It cost the Wanderers a strong
slap on the wrists from the ICC and the ground is now one more poor wicket away
from having international cricket taken away for a year.
The scenes of the Wanderers will
hopefully not be repeated, but even at Centurion on Boxing Day it was
immediately clear that South Africa is now a place where big scores are hard to
A total of 30 wickets fell on the first two days - 15 on each - and the Test was over well inside three days.
When one factors in that Gibson's
philosophy favours moving the game forward on the scoreboard over occupying the
crease, then it easy to see why the Proteas top order has had a frail look to
it in recent series.
For Du Plessis, struggling to
score runs at home is part of a trade-off that comes with winning Tests.
"That is probably the one
thing that separates us from other teams in the world ... we're okay with
it," the skipper said on the eve of the second Test in Cape Town.
"In a perfect world everyone
is scoring hundreds and everyone is doing really well, but our success rate in
home conditions over the last few years has been at a very high percentage.
"It's been a little bit
tougher on the batters at home so when you're playing against quality seam
attacks, which most teams have, the numbers for the batters will drop a bit.
"We're okay with that. Our
focus is to try and play winning cricket as often as we can."
Du Plessis himself made a rare
pair of ducks in the first Test, but it is even more difficult for the likes of
Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma, who are trying to solidify their positions
as senior members of the side.
"It is tough. I also want to
be scoring hundreds and averaging 50, but it's a good mindset in our changeroom
and it's something we speak about," Du Plessis said.
"You can look at our openers
as an example. They are guys that front up to tough conditions all season. If
it means failure, then as long as we're winning then the team buys into
The good news ahead of Cape Town
is that Hashim Amla, grossly out of form heading into Boxing Day, played a knock
of 63* at Centurion that saw his side over the line.
"Your senior players and big
players need to put in performances. They set the tone for the younger guys to
play with no pressure on their shoulders," Du Plessis added.
"It was important for Hash,
not just in red ball cricket, to score some runs and relax. Hopefully that will
be a big stepping stone for him in what is a big season for us."
Du Plessis said that he never
doubted Amla's ability through his lean run.
"In my mind, Hash is like
(Alastair) Cook from England," he said.
"People talk about him not
scoring runs, but he is still the best that we've got in the team."
second Test between the Proteas and Pakistan starts at 10:30 on Thursday.