We have now had a few days to reflect on what transpired at Galle over the weekend.
Wholesale changes are not the answer in my opinion, but I do have a feeling that some changes might be made.
Faf du Plessis bowled Vernon Philander for a total of 11 overs in the entire Test match. I think that is a clear indication that Faf does not think Philander is a viable bowling option on these Sri Lankan wickets. I think that means he will be dropped in place for an out and out batsman, in Theunis de Bruyn.
I am a very big fan of Philander and I do not think this is a wise decision. Philander’s batting has been a blessing to the Proteas of late. He faced the most number of balls in the 1st Test (124), the next best was Faf with 91 deliveries. He could play as an out and out batsman and considering he already played in the 1st Test, he might be better suited to playing in 2nd, as he’s already had some experience of playing against SL’s spinners, over de Bruyn, who hasn’t played very much cricket of late.
I have said this multiple times, and I’ll say it again, Faf needs to bat at 4. He is the captain of the side. It doesn’t matter what his personal views are on batting in that position, he needs to do what is best for the team. He needs to show them that, as captain, he is taking that responsibility and is leading from the front. I love Temba Bavuma, but he is not a no.4 batsman. He is best suited batting down the order. It is unfair to expect him to stabilise the top order.
I wouldn’t drop de Kock for the 2nd Test, just yet anyway, whilst I do think some competition in the keeping role is important, I think you can’t discount de Kock’s keeping skills and his experience in the side. Saying that though, Klaasen is a good player of spin and he has a good fighting mentality. I think it will be worth giving him a shot sooner rather than later. The fact that he is waiting in the wings should spur de Kock back into form as his place is now in question.
The thing that was most frustrating in South Africa’s batting in the 1st Test was the lack of thinking that was demonstrated. They spoke of having game plans, but with the team on 25-4, Aiden Markram comes dancing down the wicket. There is being positive against spin and then there’s that. With over two days still remaining in the Test, there was absolutely no need to be that aggressive. There was no game plan, no matter what they would lead us to believe.
I was also very disappointed in Faf’s excuses after the match ended, and yes they were excuses. He complained about the practice pitch being dead, meaning they had no time to get acclimatized to conditions when the Test began. Did India have any warm-up matches in their tour to South Africa earlier this year? Did they complain when South Africa beat them convincingly in the 1st Test? Both answers are no. Instead of working hard in the nets to get acclimatized to conditions, watching video footage of Herath and Perera and actually working on their game plans, Faf is making excuses.
Batting coach, Dale Benkenstein then says that the team’s poor performance in the 1st Test was down to a lack of mental toughness, that they are not far off from where they want to be. Mental toughness, really?
This lack of mental toughness might be believed if this was the first time South Africa had failed in the batting, sadly though, it is not. This has been an ongoing problem for them over the past two years. What is his excuse for South Africa’s poor batting in Australia in 2016 or England in 2017? What were they not mentally prepared for then?
He is just full of excuses. He’s trying to shift the blame away from himself and his inadequacies as a batting coach and laying all the blame on the players themselves. If he is worth his salt as coach, he’d do everything in his power to make sure he can give his batsmen all they need. But his answer is always “they know what they need to do”.
Look at the way England overcame Kuldeep Yadav in a couple of days. From the 1st ODI to the 2nd, they found a way to combat him. South Africa have had 5 days to come up with a batting plan for Sri Lanka’s spinners, it will be interesting to see if they have.
News broke earlier in the week that spinner Tabraiz Shamsi had left the Sri Lanka tour to return home for family reasons. He arrived back in time for the 2nd Test, which means that unless South Africa opt to play three spinners, it is likely Shaun von Berg won’t be making his Test debut.
Dale Steyn also has the chance to become Cricket South Africa’s all-time leading wicket-taker in the 2nd Test. He currently sits on 421 Test wickets, equal to the great Shaun Pollock. He only needs one more to overtake Pollock. I hope he does it, no one deserves it more than Steyn.
My team for the 2nd Test in Colombo would then be:
Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Vernon Philander, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Dale Steyn & Tabraiz Shamsi.
Wholesale changes are not the answer, this is why I’ve gone with the same team that was selected for the first Test. South Africa have the players, the top 6 just need to start performing.
The 2nd Test starts in Colombo on Friday 20th July, starting at 06:30 SA time.