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New places and new faces

Greetings from Colombo in Sri Lanka, just a few days into our tour here.

It’s quite an interesting place is Colombo, even though I’ve only had a few days to check it out. It was a pretty long flight from Johannesburg, via Dubai, so when we landed and then had an hour-long bus trip to the hotel, we were all pretty tired by the time we checked in.

As a result, all we did was a pool session and a bit of stretching, and then most of the guys just bombed out through exhaustion. Before that, though, we did have a good chat about where we wanted to go with this tour. It’s a bit of a new era for the national team, with a new coach, new management team and a few new faces in the playing squad, along with a few new ideas.

Just looking at some of those new faces – it’s nice to have a dedicated spin coach in the form of Claude Henderson. My leg-spin is something I really enjoy bowling, so it’s going to be great getting some input from Claude, and having someone to bounce ideas off, along with working on my technique.

Adrian Birrell is the new assistant coach and he also enjoys fielding, so I think we have something in common. I’m looking forward to seeing how he can improve our fielding, which I think has been ‘okay’ without being brilliant. There’s definitely room for improvement, but we do have some outstanding fielders, so I think Adrian has a lot to work with.

Then there’s the new head coach in the form of Russell Domingo. It was good to see him making his mark in his first official game in charge, against the Sri Lanka Cricket Board President’s XI. His first decision was to move JP up to No 3 in the batting order, and his thinking made sense. If JP stayed in the middle order, we would have four left-handers coming in, in a row – JP, David Miller, Robin Peterson and Ryan McLaren. So, Russell just wanted to mix up the combinations a bit, sending a left-hander in earlier and having me in the middle order, to break it up. Otherwise, the Sri Lankan spinners would have been able to settle into a rhythm and probably find it easier to tie us down.

As it is, JP made a great 92 against what was essentially a Sri Lanka ‘A’ side, with the likes of Chandimal and Thisara Perera playing. They have test and one-day international experience, so it was a decent outfit. Another change saw Alviro Petersen open the innings with Hash, and Alviro is obviously a more technically correct batter. It was tough luck for Colin Ingram, who has done well there, but it’s obviously a difficult one, and I guess it’s great that we have two options like that.

I thought we played some good cricket. We were a little conservative up front, but then accelerated nicely towards the end of our innings. The bowlers then did a decent job, and we won by 73 runs. All in all, a really good outing.

Sri Lanka is a very humid country and that is probably the most difficult thing to adjust to, when touring here. The time difference (three and a half hours ahead of SA) is not a big deal, but the humidity is a killer. All of us struggled in the field against the President’s XI, but it was good to spend a prolonged bit of time in the field to prepare us for the one-day series.

Colombo itself is quite tropical, on the west coast with lots of palm trees. It’s also a great city for restaurants, so I’m looking forward to getting out and trying some of the local cuisine, which is a lot like the food you get in India. Also, the Sri Lankan people are incredibly friendly and love their cricket, so it’s a pleasant place to tour.

Lastly, just a recap of my last week in South Africa. Imari and I spent a few days in Cape Town sorting out wedding stuff, and it was good to sit with the wedding planner and get sorted for the big day in November. There’s still lots to do, but it was good to get the ball rolling. It was also the first time in four years that I was able to spend my birthday at home with friends and family. We just went out to a friend’s restaurant, and it was really special to be able to do that with the people I don’t get to spend that much time with.

I will report back next week on the start of the one-day series.

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