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Working hard to put things right

It’s been a tough first week in Sri Lanka. As I write this, we’re 2-0 down in the five-match series and we have a big task on our hands if we want to win it.

We really wanted to start well and both games were a big disappointment – particularly that first game, which was probably one of the worst performances I’ve been involved in – certainly from a one-day perspective. It was just one of those games where nothing went according to plan and everything went wrong, never mind the fact that we played very poorly.

In the second game, I thought we were brilliant with the ball and in the field. Then the rain came and it looked like the game would be rained off. Fortunately, we got the opportunity to play some cricket, but we just didn’t bat well enough. It was just very poor and it’s quite incredible that South Africa has now lost 11 consecutive games in Sri Lanka.

Personally, I can’t quite put my finger on the reasons why, as the conditions are not too different from the conditions you get in India. I will say, though, that the bounce in India is quite low, while the wickets here have played very slow, but with a bit of bounce and quite two-paced.

We’ve obviously looked for some answers, and in both games we batted second, where the wicket had deteriorated, but certainly not to the extent where you should be 90 for five. So, there is plenty of improvement that needs to take place and that includes me, personally. I set high standards for myself and I just haven’t produced what I should have. But, we haven’t given up the fight, and will be doing everything to still win the series.

What I can say is that the Sri Lankan team is incredibly tough to beat here – they are a different proposition playing at home. They just know how to get the best out of the conditions, they bat accordingly and have bowled the right lengths and areas. If you look at someone like Malinga, he’s probably the world’s best bowler in the shorter formats and he strikes every game. He has lots of skill, and then there’s someone like Herath who has also given us headaches. He’s quite small, but he has great variations, spinning some balls more than others, skidding some on and generally just keeping you guessing. Then there are other world-class players like Jayawardene and Sangakkara.

What didn’t help in the second game was losing Hash to a freak injury. We really needed someone with his experience, and he and AB are the two most senior batsmen. But, we can either moan about our bad luck or we can just get on with it. Everyone has to step up, and that includes the younger players as well.

From a batting perspective, we batters feel like we’ve let the team down, particularly after the bowlers did such a good job in the second game. So, we’ll be working hard in the nets and doing whatever we can to be better. Basically, we’ve been very inconsistent as a one-day team, and for us to start being consistent, we have to start winning games. We also want to start winning for the new management team – it can’t be great taking over and being in charge for the first time, when the team is losing.

Off the field it’s been a little quiet, in the sense that we stuck to the restaurants in the team hotel in Colombo. There’s also been quite a bit of rain around, so we haven’t done much and even had a training session rained off. We got a change of scenery when we headed for Kandy, which is the city in which the third game is scheduled to take place. Kandy is located in the centre of the country, while Colombo is on the west coast. In terms of distance, the bus trip should have taken about 90 minutes, but because of the roads and the rain, it took us four hours to get to training.

Next time you hear from me, I’m hoping to have some good news and hope to be reporting back on a couple of much improved performances. We know how disappointed fans back home must be, but please understand that we are doing everything we can to put things right.

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