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Big win and mates - now time to lead

It’s been another great week and the sort of end to the test series against Pakistan that we were working towards. Fortunately, the guys put in a strong shift and the result was an innings victory and a 3-0 series win.

Now my focus shifts to the two T20s against the Pakistanis and my first series as official national T20 captain. As I write this, I’m looking forward to an early-morning flight to Durban tomorrow morning, and hooking up with the T20 guys, as well as making the most of the honour of being captain. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.

But, before the start of that series, we were fortunate to get a few days off, because of the third test ending early at SuperSport Park. Days at home are like hen’s teeth during the summer cricket months, so I used my time to catch up with some mates.

First, I took the opportunity to play a round of golf with a couple of old mates, who I haven’t seen for a while. I’m currently off a 14-handicap, but my golf at Woodhill Country Club in Pretoria wasn’t great, although I guess that’s no surprise, as I haven’t spent much time on it. As it is, I really do play the golf for the getting out and spending time with mates, as opposed to being ultra-competitive. So, I don’t take it that seriously. We followed that up with dinner at home with some mates, and it rounded off a great day off, as it’s another thing Imari and I don’t get to do very often, with me on the road all the time.

That was followed by something a bit more worrying, as my dachshund Giorgio had to go in for some surgery on his back. Apparently, it’s something quite common amongst dachshunds, but that didn’t make me feel any better. Shame, the poor guy wasn’t happy, but the surgery went well and I expect him to make a good recovery. I’m close to my dogs and I hate to see either of them in pain.

Just a bit of reflection on the third test win over Pakistan. I thought it was another brave decision by Graeme to bat first, as the wicket looked pretty green on day one. Conditions were difficult to bat in and we were under pressure. But, we got out of it once again, and I thought that Hashim played brilliantly, before AB came in and did likewise. Both Hashim and I tried to be positive, but I just got one that seamed and bounced, and I nicked it behind. In hindsight, there’s so much time in a test match, that I should have just kept it tight for a while, before then taking the attack to the bowler, once I had 50 or 60. It was disappointing, but I was happy with my form in the series, without going on to get big runs. I’m hoping to take that form through to the T20s.

Once we got to 400, we knew that would be competitive on that wicket, with the cracks we expected to open up. That proved to be the case, and like I’ve said throughout the series, we knew we just had to get the runs on the board and our bowlers would do the job.

Speaking of bowlers, just a word on Kyle Abbott’s seven wickets in an innings on debut. I think what worked in his favour was that he only found out the day before the test that he was going to be playing, as a replacement for Kallis. So, he didn’t have much time to think about it, and he could just come out and play. Then, getting a wicket in his first over definitely helped settle his nerves, and he just kicked on from there, bowling beautifully.

You may have heard that we already have a nickname for Kyle, calling him Jimmy, after the former boxer. He was also pretty quiet coming into the changeroom, but I know Kyle from my time playing with him with the South Africa A team. He’s just a good guy and very down to earth, so he fitted in really well, as that’s the culture we’ve worked on making a part of who we are as a test squad. We all have a huge amount of respect for each other and that’s one of the main reasons we’ve had the success we’ve had over the past year or so.

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