Friday, December 27, 2019

New players, new coaches, same problems

For all the talk of the changes which were being introduced to the South African cricket team, Day One of the domestic summer revealed the same problems. Joe Root won the toss, and inexplicably decided to bowl first on a deck which has a reputation for being incredibly up and down towards the end of the game. When you opt to bat last in Centurion, you really do basically have to roll the opposing team, and set yourself up to either bat only once, or only chase like 100 to win on the final day. With South Africa already on 278/9, chances are pretty high that this will not be a situation where England will only bat once. From that perspective, you could argue that honours were even on day on. Add in that England won the toss, and you could say that South Africa won the day.

With that said, however, it did seem like much of the same problems remained. South Africa, who it must be remembered are in the middle of a five-game losing streak, showed many of the same batting frailties which have plagued them for the vast majority of that run. For one, they once again could not get anything going with the opening partnership. This time, Dean Elgar was dismissed with the first delivery of the day. Aiden Markram looked good for 20 runs, and then as usual let it go to waste with a very soft dismissal. The middle order? As per usual they parted like the Red Sea and they were 111-5 before you'd digested your Christmas leftovers. Then, almost on cue, Quinton de Kock came on and played one of the best knocks you'll see in your entire life, a majestic 95, which was worth a century given the situation he came in on. The idea is that having Quinton de Kock keep wicket allows for the team to have more flexibility. Indeed, having de Kock at 6 is part of the reason they could have Pretorius at 7, and not sacrifice, ostensibly, any batting talent. But at some point the think tank at large is going to have to seriously consider whether or not you really want your best batsman having to bat with the tail as de rigeour rather than an indication that something has gone terribly wrong. Indeed, the back-up wicketkeeper in the squad at the moment, Rudi Second has a higher First Class average than everyone in the team bar Zubayr Hamza, so it could be argued that he should have gotten the nod anyway, and lifting the gloves off Quinny would lighten his load and allow him to focus on his batting. There seems to be no end in sight to South Africa's batting woes, but fortunately, there is no end to the list of possible solutions.

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