It’s good to be back in South Africa after a week in Zimbabwe, which was ultimately disappointing from a results point of view. Winning the triangular series – which involved Zimbabwe and Bangladesh – was something we set out to do, but it wasn’t to be.
I don’t think we played great cricket. But, having said that, we went there with the idea of trying different combinations and giving some of the younger guys a go, while resting some of our key players in the form of Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel. There was no doubt that we wanted to win every game. Ultimately, we fell short, losing in the final to Zimbabwe.
You actually don’t get a lot of opportunities in international cricket to try combinations and give guys experience, so I can understand why management went with that approach in a series like this. Normally, you are straight in, while this was a good chance for the younger guys to get a taste of international cricket. Unfortunately, we came up against two sides that played really well, particularly Zimbabwe.
You may have seen that I wasn’t included in the first two games of the series, but the message was clear that we would all get a chance, and that proved the case.
From my point of view, it is difficult to get a look-in at the top of the order because Hashim Amla and Richard Levi are the established openers. So, it was perhaps disappointing to only get one chance at opening and then a couple of games at three and four.
I do think, though, that it seems as if I’m now challenging for a position at those numbers in the batting order, and that management will continue to stick with Hashim and Richard. It seemed to work out for me in the final against Zimbabwe, getting 66 from 57 balls, so I was happy to make that contribution and remind the selectors of what I can do in that position.
It was actually quite tricky, batting on a slow wicket, and a target of 147 just wasn’t enough on a wicket that was just getting better and better. We needed our bowlers to crack open the Zimbabwe top order, but Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor were excellent, as they were all week.
Team management were obviously not happy that we lost, but they were generally happy with the process of the week, with those younger guys coming in and getting experience. Gary Kirsten talked about the pressure of international cricket numerous times and there really is no substitute for experiencing it for yourself. You just don’t get that in domestic cricket and I can certainly relate to that.
That’s why it’s so important for guys to come in and get a feel for it, because you just can’t play with the freedom you do at franchise level. Also, often, when you’ve just come into the national team you’re just looking at cementing your spot. So, this week was important for the newcomers and the learning process was the priority. Having played around with a few different combinations, it was also good to see where we are short, particularly with the T20 World Cup coming up. So, all in all, an interesting week.
Prior to the Zimbabwe trip we had a really good few days at Arabella in the Cape, working on the strategy for the year ahead and I really enjoyed the annual golf day with the ex-players. It was just such a nice get-together with some of the legends of the SA game. This year I played with HD Ackerman, who is now a commentator, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable 18 holes.
This week I’m in Durban for the SA ‘A’ versus Sri Lanka ‘A’ game. So, I hope to report back on some good results next week.