TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
NUMBERS never tell the whole story, but the bare bones of the SA tour to India that ended last week will stick in the throat of any cricketminded South African: played five, won none. WTF?
SA A lost one-day games to Australia A by nine wickets and 108 runs, and to India A by eight wickets and 34 runs. They drew the first four-day match against India A but went down by an innings and 81 runs in the second.
This, mind, from the players who will serve as reserves when SA are in India from October 2 to December 7 to play three Twenty20s, five one-day internationals and four tests. At 72 days the tour will weigh in as SA’s longest to India, which means replacements will likely be required.
Lack of experience on the sub-continent does not stand up as a defence for SA’s performance, what with only two of the 21 players who saw action in the one-dayers and four-day games not having played there at some level before.
However, Cricket SA’s high performance manager, Vincent Barnes, who was SA A’s coach in India, filled in some of the gaps between the stark numbers – starting with what might yet be called chicken dance.
“Everybody who ate the chicken at the team hotel that night was ill,” Barnes said. “It was a five-star hotel and we ate there on eight days out of 10, so you tend to trust the food.”
Ten of Barnes’ players and two members of the management staff were hospitalised with food poisoning before, during and after the one-dayer against India A in Chennai on August 9. The rapid depletion of SA A’s ranks forced Barnes to borrow a fielder from his opponents and to put his video analyst, Henrikus Coertzen, on the field.
As for the four-day games …
“We should have won the first one; we dominated for three of the days,” Barnes said. “In the second game pitch was crumbling from day one, so much so that the Indians had a fielder in a catching position behind the wicketkeeper. But we were too tentative with the bat, and we should have taken on the spinners.”
There was also good news to be had from the tour, notably that Quinton de Kock and Dane Piedt would seem to be back on track.
De Kock, who was sent to India having scraped together 100 runs in five innings on SA’s tour to Bangladesh, smashed centuries in both of his one-day innings for SA A and another in one of his three trips to the crease in the four-day games.
Piedt, who made a spectacular test debut against Zimbabwe in Harare in August last year by taking match figures of 8/152 but has not played for SA since because of a shoulder injury he sustained last September, not only topped SA A’s wicket-taking charts in the four-day games with 11 but also sent down 112 overs – more than any other bowler in the series.