SA’s ‘catch-22’ to balance batting, bowling

Times Media


SOUTH Africans have been dismissed 102 times in the last six tests they have played, starting with the match against New Zealand in Dunedin in March.

But only twice have those South Africans been able to raise their bats to acknowledge the crowd’s appreciation for a century as they’ve walked off, and both times he has been Dean Elgar.

Elgar made 140 in the drawn match in Dunedin and 136 at The Oval, where England beat South Africa by 239 runs in the third test on Monday to take an unassailable 2-1 series lead.

Two out of 102? The gives South Africa a century-scoring percentage of 1.96% in the past five months.

Might part of the problem be that South Africa have not played on a bona fide batting pitch in that time?

All the surfaces presented to them in New Zealand and in England have tilted towards bowlers of various shades — not unfairly, but clearly.

Swings and roundabouts, Russell Domingo said: “We don’t mind [more responsive surfaces] because it brings our bowlers into the game.

“We feel that we are a very good side when the ball is doing a bit, and we usually find a way to scrap a decent score and our bowlers are very effective.

“If you ask the batsmen, they would say they want to bat in ‘Potch’ and Kimberley every single weekend.

“The bowlers would like bowl at The Oval this past weekend or Wellington where it’s nipped around, or the Wanderers on a green wicket.

“It’s a catch-22. Your batting stats are always going to take a bit of a dive and your bowling stats are going to improve.”

Quite how results have swung so wildly in a series in which England won the first test at Lord’s by 211 runs and South Africa the second at Trent Bridge by 340 is difficult to explain, even for Domingo.

“I suppose both sides are grappling with the make-up of their team; we are,” he said. “Our side is a long way from being the finished article.

“There’s a lot of tinkering that still needs to take place, a lot of combinations that need to be looked at.

“But there are some players who have come in and done pretty well, so it’s falling into place.

“It might not have shown in this game but we’re getting a better understanding as to what the best XI will be going forward.”

Might that mean changes for the fourth test in Manchester, which starts on Friday?

“We need to sit with the selectors but these 11 players played fantastically 10 days ago [at Trent Bridge],” Domingo said.

“So I’m reluctant to make massive changes after one result. If it’s up to me I probably wouldn’t make any changes, but it’s not just up to me.”

A different kind of change would be to move Temba Bavuma, whose tight technique has helped him face 448 balls in the series — second only to Dean Elgar among the South Africans — up the order.

“It’s something we’ve spoken about even before the second match,” Domingo said.


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