TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IF you hear alarm bells beyond the boundary, it could be because the heart of the batting line-up SA will send into the test series against England averaged 20.2 in the opening round of franchise first-class matches this weekend.
Between them, Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma – all them likely members of the top seven for the first test at Kingsmead on Saturday – scored 202 runs in 10 innings for the Titans, the Cobras, and the Lions.
Their only score higher than 35 was Bavuma’s 57 in the first innings against the Dolphins at the Wanderers. Bavuma’s performance was also the most valuable in terms of time and effort: none of the others batted for longer than his 182 minutes and faced more than his 128 balls.
At the other end of the scale, Elgar batted for 31 minutes and 23 balls for his scores of nought and 12.
Collectively, the five players spent 507 minutes at the crease and faced 387 balls. That could be seen as useful preparation, but with the test series now just five days away SA would have wanted to reassure themselves that the batting woes that plagued them in India – where they were bowled out for less than 200 six times in seven innings – could be explained in large part by pitches that were purposefully poorly prepared.
But the flip side is that the erosion of technique and confidence that would have crept in during the India tour could linger into the England series.
Indeed, on the weekend’s evidence SA have plenty of homework to do in the nets and not much time in which to do it before they have to face bowlers of the calibre of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in Durban in what will probably be responsive conditions.
There was better news to report from the other end of the equation, where Dane Piedt – the only frontline bowler in the SA squad playing franchise cricket this weekend – took 4/121 in the Knights’ first innings at Newlands.
Piedt took his wickets in the top and middle orders, and at the tail, and he claimed them with targeted aggression rather than batsmen hitting out – one was trapped in front, the others caught behind, stumped and bowled.
Better yet, Piedt bowled 44 overs to prove he is over the shoulder injury that kept him out of cricket for eight months and in fact threatened to end his career.