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Q&A with Neil: after 1st test

We have asked Neil Manthorp to host a Question & Answer session after South Africa's sensational victory over India in the first test in Cape Town.

We have received Neil's thoughts. Enjoy!

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
Meech asked:
Hi Neil, what a cracking test match! After games like that, I still have no idea why South Africans don''t follow test cricket. Newlands always pulls a good (knowledgeable) crowd but the rest of the country''s obsession with limited overs games just depresses me. Anyway, that''s a topic for another time. My actual question has to do with our approach to this game. It was very apparent to me how super positive we were in our play, even unnecessarily aggressive. I assume this comes from Ottis and Faf, but do you think this type of cricket will work against the outstanding Australian bowling attack? I don''t, and I hope they reign it in a bit against the likes of Starc and Hazelwood. And while I''m at it, how do you think Ottis is fitting into the set up? Do you think he''s added or going to add more value than Domingo? Your thoughts please?
Neil answered:
Yes, it was rather good, wasn’t it!
I never thought they were over-attacking given the conditions. The general consencus amongst both teams was that there would be a higher than average number of ‘unplayable’ deliveries in between the ‘normal’ ones so you’d better score some runs before the one with your name on it came along. That’s what Otts said to the players – “Nobody will be blamed for getting out to an attacking shot so long as it is the right shot to the right ball” – or words to that effect. I thought AB’s counter=attack in the first innings was one of the best innings of its ilk I have ever seen. And if the pitches are similar for the Australia series and the Proteas back themselves in a straight shoot-out, who are we to complain? It’ll be the most exciting cricket we’ve ever seen!
Ottis has been a revelation in the change room. Challenging conventional thinking and giving the players the freedom to believe they can achieve anything.
Duncan Tindall asked:
Is Morris the right man to slot in at number 7 as a genuine all rounder ? Is Philander a genuine all rounder ? Who would you pick in Steyns place ?
Neil answered:
I’d be happy with Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo or Lungi Ngidi in Steyn’s place. They all offer something a little different and all three are very fine cricketers. It’ll be a tough one for the selectors but, if they are influenced by Ottis Gibson, I suspect they might be persuaded to go with the extra pace of Ngidi on his home ground. The top six will just have to do their jobs and put 300 on the board. Sometimes you really need to move away from picking bowlers because they can also bat a bit… specialists win Test matches.
Andre asked:
Hi Neil. I saw you mention on Twitter that the incoming Aussie test series later this year might be Dale Steyn''s last test series. Is that just a hunch on your side of have your heard some whispers that suggest that? In my opinion he should carry on for another season at least (fitness permitting) and should rather retire from international limited overs cricket.
Neil answered:
Hi Andre, I have no inside information at all. I believe Steyn himself would like to carry on for another couple of years – he has the desire and he feels physically strong despite the injuries. I only said it “might” be his Test swansong because there are so few Test matches coming up after the Australia series and he might decide to concentrate on T20 leagues around the world. I hope not. I honestly believe he has a vast amount still to offer and could easily take 500 wickets.
Rogers Tom Smith asked:
Good day. I know this was a great win and all that, but are we not looking at the bigger picture here. We where bowl out for less then 300 1st and less then 150 in the 2nd. If India was not such poor travellers will we have won this game against say Aus or Eng or even NZ for that matter. And big out to the grounds men Excellent test wicket, Regards Rogers
Neil answered:
All you need to do in Test cricket is score more than your opponents and bowl them out, which is what the Proteas did. It is impossible to guess who would have won if SA had played Australia on that surface – but I would have paid my commentary fee to charity to have seen it! Apart from AB and Faf, nobody batted as well as they could have on that wicket but, collectively, they batted well enough. That’s all that matters. It’s like golf…who cares if you could have shot 68 if 72 was good enough to win.
Dylan Swanepoel asked:
Hi Neil
In the context of the game AB`s100 or so runs along with his great catches near warranted a man of the match performance.What has been the reaction from the Indian press ?
Neil answered:
AB was my man-of-the-match, no question. H scored almost a quarter of SA’s runs and far more than anyone else on either side. But more than – it was Bhuveshwar Kumar who reduced SA to 12-3 in his first three overs. AB counter-attacked in stunning style and went to 50 from 55 balls with 10 fours, four of them in a single over from…Kumar! That’s not a ‘general’ counter-attack – that is counter-attacking with the precision of laser guided missiles.
The Indian press are mostly fuming about the pre-tour selection of the squad and selection for the Test. They say Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma do not have the techniques to succeed on SA pitches (ever) and that Ishant Sharma should have played in place of Jasprit Bumrah who, remarkably, had not played a single first-class game for a year before the Test. But most galling was the omission of vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane who has scored runs all over the world and averages 54 outside India.
BJvG asked:
Good day Neil sir, Firstly, compliments of the season and thanks as always for keeping us in the loop and taking the time to interact with your readers, much appreciated...Hopefully a quick and simple question, in my short 25 years of passionately following and supporting the Protea''s, I was wandering where the side selected in CT would stand in SA''s rich cricket history? At the moment we''d have to base (some of) it on reputation a bit (with Dale ''breaking'' down and the Hash not in his flow) but with say Temba as a fielding sub, surely this is (could be) one of the best/most complete sides we''ve (ever) sent onto the paddock? Short quick next question, is Lungi the next ‘big’ quick coming through, as (long term) we seem ''bare'' in (world class/quality) back-up here, with Vern, Morne and Dale getting on? Thanks for your time and I look forward to reading your answers. Cheers and enjoy the rest of series and looks like the Aussies are going to be the big one, as always(!)
Neil answered:
Good day to you, too! How is Amsterdam? Are you skating on the canals, or is it not that cold? Are you able to watch the India series on TV? Hope so…
This one of SA’s better squads of the last 25 years, certainly. And the bowling attack which started at Newlands is undoubtedly one the best ever. There are a couple of cricketers I’d have in the squad to make it the “best ever” since readmission…Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Gary Kirsten…to name a few.
Yes, Lungi has that potential. I’m as excited as everyone else. You can’t protect men like him from the weight of expectation forever, but I’m definitely not going to make any predictions just yet. He is still only 21 and has had a few more injury challenges than Kagiso Rabada. But the fast bowling cupboard is far from bare…
Vizicelo James asked:
Good afternoon Neil, congratulations to the Proteas for their win against the Indians. Mr. Manthorp South Africa played against Bangladesh where players like Andile Phehlukwayo and Morne Morkel did very well as bowlers, once again against Zimbabwe Andile Phehlukwayo proved himself to be a good bowler when needed most. Apart from the opposition don''t you think that it was brutally unfair for the selectors to select unfit Dale Steyn ahead of a fit and performing player in the like of Andile Phehlukwayo? Finally, what do you think was the primary reason for the omission of Themba Bavuma who did better than seasoned batsmen when we were obliterated by India in India last year? Thank you.
Neil answered:
Andile has made an outstanding start to his Test career but there’s no point in pretending it wasn’t against the two weakest Test teams. He is a huge part of the Proteas plans in all formats but he is still working at his game. He swings the ball superbly but might need a bit more pace against the top teams. And the selectors did NOT choose an “unfit Dale Steyn”! He proved his fitness and convinced them to pick him through the sheer force of his performances during the build-up to the match. I would be happy to see any of Phehlukwayo, Morris or Lungi Ngidi take Steyn’s place at Centurion.
It was a straight shoot-out between Bavuma and AB de Villiers for a place in the middle order. Temba is extremely confident and backs himself to succeed in every situation, which is why he is so good in a batting crisis. But I don’t think even he would suggest he is better than de Villiers. He was extremely unlucky to lose his place, however.
Andre asked:
Hi Neil. I am very excited with the group of young cricketers that are coming through the ranks and I predict that we are in for a new golden generation of Protea cricket (provided that politics and the weak rand don''t interfere too much). The names of Markram (captain), de Kock, Rabada, Ngidi, Maharaj, Phehlukwayo, etc will become legends of SA cricket and there are a few more younger players coming through. For me a key player for the future is Wiaan Mulder as he has the potential to become one of our best allrounders. When do you think will he get his chance in the test side? I know he is not even in the quad now, but he could have made in impact in the next 2 tests against the Indians and would provide balance to the test side. Your thoughts?
Neil answered:
Hi Andre, I like your positivity and I share your optimism about the future. (I also share your concerns about the financial realities of keeping our best players in the country.) Wiaan is an amazing talent, no question about that. The plan is to integrate him into the ODI squad until he becomes a regular and then to give him a chance to compete for a starting place in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup. Imagine Morris, Phehlukwayo, Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius in the same squad – perhaps Wayne Parnell, too. We could have batting down to number 10 like we had the last time the World Cup was in England in ’99.
Nyameko asked:
Compliments of the New Year Neil. South Africa did well to win the Test match in Cape Town. If the trend will be to doctor pitches, our right, could they play 6 batsmen, a wicket-keeper and 4 bowlers. My dicky heart cannot take the below par batting performances. Regards
Neil answered:
Hi Nyameko, Happy New Year to you, too! First of all, the pitch was in no way ‘doctored’! It was an excellent Test match pitch as was confirmed by both captains and all the players. It provided assistance to the seam bowlers and, generally, with the exception of AB and Faf in the first innings, many batsmen had the fallibilities in their defensive techniques rather nastily exposed. I must say I would have agreed with you until I heard Ottis Gibson talking after the Test. He said he was very keen to continue playing a five-man attack with four seamers and a spinner. But Vern and Morne both prefer to be part of a three-man seam attack (more wickets to go around for them) and, as we know, KG is happy to bowl as many overs as the captain needs from him. So I would have suggested Temba returning for Steyn. Having said that, I’m extremely excited about the prospect of a four-man pace attack on green, bouncy wicket at Centurion…!
Arshad Mahmood asked:
As the Dale Steyn Injured so most likely Chriss Morris should get a go. Also why not David Miller tried in Tests as he is the most destructive batsmen after AB. As he has shown many patience innings in ODIs.
Neil answered:
Hi Arshad…How is Jeddah? I visited there many years ago. I hope you have excellent air-conditioning…
Yes, Morris is a contender, as are Phehlukwayo and Lungi Ngidi. David Miller has played 100 ODI games and no Tests so I suspect his chance has gone. He never really scored enough first-class runs early in his career but he is doing very well now with the Knights so he can’t be written off.
Floreinach asked:
Hi, Neil. Do you think Virat Kholi''s passion could be mistaken for possible arrogance? I''ve always enjoyed passion in sport, but he seems too provocative in his celebrations at times. Would like to know your thoughts. Also, Steyntjie, I fear we might be seeing the last of him, he''s been so special for quite some time, I just hope we get to see one last exemplary Steyn spell during the Australian series, can''t wait for it! The Indians will provide meaningful preparation for the Australian tour, one would always fancy the baggy greens more than the Indians on a tour to South Africa.
Neil answered:
I’m still not sure what to make of Virat the captain. His celebration at slip when nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada was dismissed was bizarrely animated and the double-armed, fist pumping gesture of celebration when the Proteas were dismissed for 130 in the second innings was unmistakably a victory dance rather than simply being pleased with an excellent bowling performance. It irritates me when people poo-poo a sportsman for being enthusiastic or passionate but it does seem that he might go slightly over the top sometimes. That wouldn’t really matter as a player but, as a captain, you are setting an example to all the players, all of the time, whether you know it or not.
Piet asked:
Hi Neil, Thank you for taking our questions. I think everyone fell in love with the 4 horseman idea, and it really is a pity that Steyn is injured again. But don''t you think, with Steyn injured and how the first test went, we should perhaps change our strategy? I am sure both highveld wickets will be pace bowler friendly and surely Big Vern (how good is he???), Morkel, and Rabada is good enough to take 20 wickets cheaply in those conditions. I think we should bring Bavuma back in, becasue we rather appear to be a batsmen short. I also feel Maharaj is a must, so no suggestion of dropping him for a pace bowler. What is your thoughts? Just an after thought, how long before Rabada and Ngidi share a new red ball and torment other countries?
Neil answered:
Hello Piet, I’ve answered all your questions earlier on – I would probably have gone with the extra batsman but I’m happy to watch a four-man seam attack at Centurion!
Rabada and Ngidi with the new ball… yes, I like the sound of that very much indeed. And I’m sure I’ll like the sight of it even more. I’d be amazed if that doesn’t happen in the next couple of years.
Shannon asked:
Hi Neil, when do the selectors decide that it becomes too risky to keep selecting Dale Steyn. He seems to becoming prone to injury which places large pressure and workload over the rest of the attack. Over a longer test match or a better surface this could be detrimental to our bowlers both in that match and in conditioning for the next match. Surely Dale should be required to play and finish more county/local 4/5 day games to prove full fitness before his selection. There is no doubt he is still a world class player and possible we are wanting him back to quick?
Neil answered:
If he had damaged his shoulder again, or it was another old injury which had reoccurred, I’m sure patience would be wearing out with him. But the heel injury was completely unrelated to any old injury and had nothing to do with his match readiness. According to the experts, it was a freak injury and could have happened to any of the bowlers. In which case he carries on. I thought he looked as good as ever in the 17.3 overs he bowled in the first innings…
Vinolin Naidoo asked:
Many of the proteas may plan to retire after the 2019 world cup. Players like AB, Hash, Dale, Morne, Faf, Vernon and Elgar are in that bracket. Do you think this summer series against both India and Australia may be there so called go home finale series inof test cricket? In addition, do you think these players may still want to play the 2019 summer series?
Neil answered:
I’m not sure, Vinolin. Even if they say now that they want to retire in 2019 they may still change their mind (or have it changed for them!) But yes, many of them will retire after the World Cup – which still gives them next home summer of Test cricket when Pakistan will be the tourists. So this is not their last hurrah on home soil!
Ronald Stephenson asked:
Who has taken the most ten wicket hauls and the most five wicket hauls for South Africa in Test cricket! Do you belueve the Newlands pitch was a good Test pitch!
Neil answered:
Muttiah Muralitharan had an astonishing 22 10-wicket hauls in his career, more than double the man in second place, Shane Warne who had 10. Rangana Herath and Sir Richard Hadlee both had nine 10-wicket hauls with Anil Kumble on eight. Dale Steyn leads the way for SA with five 10-wicket hauls and 26 five-wicket bags with Makhaya Ntini in second place with four 10-fors and 18 five-fors.
The Newlands pitch was absolutely brilliant. It had something for everyone – but it had most for the spectators!
Debasis Ghosh asked:
Coach Ottis Gibson has said that they will continue to play with four pacers throughout the summer against both India and Australia. But don''t you think playing with four pacers on seaming wickets against Australia would be a risky proposition, because Australia have got a very good unit of good fast bowlers. So, may be playing on a good batting wicket will be a better idea, and then you always have pace & bounce on South African wickets and a friend called reverse swing.
Neil answered:
All good points, Debasis, but let’s get the India series done and dusted before we speculate about Australia! We’ll have another Q&A before the Aussie tour starts! :)

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