Character, fight and the right attitude
What a difference a week makes. Don’t get me wrong – we haven’t forgotten about the disappointment of the one-day series against Sri Lanka. But, to beat them in the T20 series, in their own backyard, with them ranked as the top team in the world in that format, was a great effort.
I’m really proud of the fight and character shown by the guys in the Blue Label T20 squad. That’s what I called for at the start of the series, and that’s what they gave me.
We were all down at the end of the one-day series, short on confidence and in big need of a lift. So, for the guys to come out and show that type of character, was very impressive, and I think bodes well for the future. Our performances weren’t perfect, but when you’re struggling in foreign conditions and out of form, all you can do is keep fighting. Attitude was the key and played a big part in us winning the T20 series.
I thought the bowling was much more clinical and the guys stuck to their plans better. There were certain plans for certain batters, and it was encouraging to see the bowlers keep the faith and get some of the Sri Lankans out using those plans. I didn’t think we bowled as well as we could have in the one-day series, so this was a big plus. Obviously, the batting in the ODI series was also a big let-down, but for me, the bowling was the key to success in the T20s.
A big part of improving the batting was playing the Sri Lankan spinners better. One of the plans was to play them straighter than we had, so fewer cross-bat shots – sweeps etc. That’s where we were losing a lot of wickets. We also decided to be a bit more cautious when facing certain bowlers. Specifically, Senanayake looked a little more dangerous, so we didn’t take as many risks when facing him.
But we did want to put more pressure on the Sri Lankan spinners, as a whole, and I think we achieved that, although if you look at the whole tour, it took us longer than we anticipated. We just lost too many wickets to the spinners in the middle overs during the ODI series, playing too many shots, and that’s a lesson we learnt.
As captain of the T20 side, going into the series with no form to speak of, I felt under a lot of pressure. I wanted to lead from the front and part of that meant scoring runs. That didn’t happen in the first two games, but I was really chuffed to get runs in the third, after doing a lot of work in the nets. It was nice to contribute at last, even though it was a ‘dry’ tour for me, as a whole.
I talked last week about luck playing its part, and I experienced that during my innings of 85, being dropped a couple of times. Like I said, that’s often what you need to get back on your feet, form wise. I think about how many times Sangakkara played and missed during both series, and it’s clear that this ‘luck rule’ applies to everyone. I just need to keep working hard now, and ensure that I get that consistency back in my batting.
I was pleased for the guys who joined us after the ODI series. Henry Davids, I think, got a lot out of the experience. He may not have scored runs in the three games, but coming on tour, experiencing the Sri Lankan conditions and getting a feel for something completely different from the SuperSport Park wicket he usually plays on, will only help him develop more as a player.
I was also chuffed to see David Wiese do well with the ball. He actually doesn’t do much bowling for the Titans, but I thought he was great when called up. Unfortunately, he didn’t see much action with the bat, but I know that he can hit the ball far.
Imran Tahir is another guy who is great to have in your team, because he’s a wicket-taker, turns it both ways, and I feel that I can toss him the ball when I really need a wicket. With his variations, he creates doubt in the minds of the batsmen he bowls to, so he’s a really effective tool.
Off the field, it was nice to see the guys finally enjoy themselves after a game, when we celebrated the victories in the first two T20 games. The squad came together and had a couple of beers at the hotel bar, and it was good to see some smiles on the faces of the guys. It’s been a tough tour, and unwinding after so much stress was great.
I’ll touch base again next week, when I’m back in South Africa.