Cape Town - Proteas captain, Hashim Amla, says the prospect of chasing an improbable fourth innings total of 480 left the his side with no option but to play out their defensive strategy in their 337-run loss to India in the fourth Freedom series Test match at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi on Monday.
In the end, the Proteas couldn’t hold on to the draw after surviving 143.1 overs, but in the process showed resilience and fight in committing to the ‘unnatural’ team plan set out ahead of the innings.
“Chasing 480, if you asked anyone here who would have thought we could get 480 I don’t think many would put their hands up,” Amla said after the match. “It was a daunting target especially weighed up with five sessions to bat. Having come close to that in the past we felt that was the best way to save the game for us. It would have been easy for us to go out and have some fun, get some runs under our belts with the guys in catching positions, but that gains nothing. You are playing for your team and country and trying to save a Test match. If the target had been lower we would have definitely tried to go for the victory.
“We tried to play cricket that was beneficial to our team and our country,” he explained. “A batter wants to score runs, that’s why you are a batsman. We could have come out and tried to score 50’s and 100’s but in the greater scheme of things it didn’t fit into our team ethos of trying to save a game when victory is not probable.
“The need at the time was for us to try and bat for as long as possible. We needed to take as many risky shots out of the equation to try and draw the Test match. To block full tosses and half-volleys is quite difficult, it’s unnatural for a batsman but when it is done you appreciate the determination that somebody shows. AB (De Villiers) was a prime example in this innings. We had to knuckle down for the team’s sake, there was no selfishness towards the team.”
Although they were overshadowed by the batting woes, the performances from the bowlers throughout the series will be a positive the team will carry forward into the series against England starting at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in Durban on December 26th.
“Our bowling has been exceptional this tour,” Amla said in praise. “For me it’s been the shining light to see Morne Morkel lead the attack in the absence of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. He bowled, in my opinion from the times we have been to India, some of the best spells of fast bowling that I have seen, all credit to him. The way Abbo (Abbott) came in and got a five-for with his opportunity, KG (Rabada) bowled well when he did play, our spinners did the job when they did play. I’m very happy with the way our bowlers responded to these conditions, for me that a positive going into the England series.”
So where to from here for Hashim Amla and his men?
“To lift the morale we have about two weeks until the England series,” he said. “We will sit down and reassess and there may be some decisions that will need to be made. We need to let the dust settle for a few days and take it forward when we get back to South Africa.”