Proteas need to get the ship back on course
The talk after the rather intriguing contest at the Gabba between Australia and South Africa was about how close the two teams now seem. It is fair to say that the Aussies played fantastically well but it must be noted that despite them playing much better than they have been doing in the recent past and surpassing the expectations of their fans, they did not win. For the Proteas, there will no doubt be the admission that, bar a couple of really good performances, they were below the high standards that they have set for themselves.
Will the Proteas be able to raise their intensity and performance for the rest of the series? I reckon the Gabba will serve as a good wakeup call, but not using the first opportunity at the Gabba will have given the Australian team much required confidence. I am in no doubt that in their assessment of themselves as a team, the Aussies would have conceded that the Proteas have a stronger unit. Now, having mixed it with South Africa and come out well at the other end, there will be renewed belief that will spur them on for the rest of the series.
Along with ironing out the creases within the team, there is the case of replacing JP Duminy who ruptured his Achilles tendon. I wonder how much discussion there will be on who comes into the team for Adelaide and if it will be an easy or complex process. In my mind, having already decided when leaving the shores of South Africa that Faf DuPlessis would be the spare batsman on the trip, it would follow that he takes the now vacant spot.
Whether there is the acceptance from the team camp or not that the five seamers did not work on the surface in Queensland, it is the hope of many that South Africa keep options open by playing one of the two spinners in their squad. It’s said that the Gabba pitch did not behave in the way most had expected and anticipated but that is the exact reason that in selection, all bases must be covered. Four seamers are more than sufficient and have proved so over the past 12 to 18 months.
The wicketkeeper position is one area that will continue to draw opinion from many but I must say that my view is that against Australia, South Africa needs AB de Villiers to keep in order to create that extra advantage of the seventh batsman. Should the decision be made that De Villiers is not able to do both jobs and be at his best, then it would be advisable to move in that direction against lesser opposition.
The conjecture over De Villiers’s role is Jacques Rudolph’s gain too, as it means that attention is deflected from him. Rudolph has made some good contributions to the team in the time that he has moved to the No 6 position but has not yet been convincing enough to cement his position. As is the same for all the other members of the team, when the team is winning and performing as expected, nobody really has much to say, but once things do not quite go according to plan, then the criticism pours in.
The Proteas are still a formidable unit and my expectation is still that they get the job done Down Under. The job is now going to be considerably tougher but by no means impossible. If we add to that that this team has made a habit of bouncing back strongly day to day and game to game, it would not be surprising to see a much improved and impressive performance the next time around.
The mental strength of the side that has been so praised is to be tested in Australia along with their skills and temperament for the rest of the series.