WINNING THE FIRST TEST MASSIVE FOR THE PROTEAS
Make no mistake, winning the first test – South Africa’s first in six – was vital for their confidence. It also crucially gives the coaching staff credibility in the eyes of the players that the direction they are taking is the right one. The Proteas are going through a period of transformation not only on the pitch but off the pitch – with the change in management as well as with blooding new talent to replace retired legends such as Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla. It is in these early stages that wins are so vital – especially against established teams like England.
ROOTS TOSS BLUNDER OFFSET TWO CRUCIAL DROP CATCHES
Fortunately for South Africa, England captain Joe Root’s decision to field on the first day – meaning they would have to bat last – potentially cost England the match. South Africa almost offset that mistake with two expensive ones of their own. Rassie van der Dussen’s two dropped catches cost South Africa in excess of 100 runs. England may also justifiably claim that the virus that ran through their camp negatively impacted on their energy levels and performance. They will no doubt bounce back hard in Cape Town.
ENGLAND’S PROSPENSITY TO COLLAPSE MEANS YOU ARE ALWAYS IN WITH A SHOUT
In the first innings England lost their last 7 wickets for 39 runs, in the second dig they lost their last 7 for 64 runs. England have a history of collapsing, particularly over the past year where they have been bowled out 3 times for less than 85! One of them against Ireland!! This is something that will give the South Africans plenty of motivation in difficult situations. On Sunday, England looked like they were well on track at 204 for 3 needing another 170 or so. Root and Ben Stokes were looking good and many locals feared the worst. Until the English bolts came loose and the wheels came off.
SOLID DEBUTS FROM VD DUSSEN AND PRETORIUS
Rassie (aside from his two dropped catches) and Dwaine Pretorius had commendable debuts. Both contributed at crucial times, Rassie with his composed 51 in the second innings and Pretorius with his 33 in the first and crucial wickets of Denly in the first and second innings as well as his economical bowling. They give the team some much needed balance.
BOUCHER DOES THE RIGHT THING IN SELECTION FOR 2ND TEST
With Aiden Markram out of the series with an injured finger and to be frank out of form as well, Mark Boucher had an unenviable and difficult decision to make. Whether to replace Markram with the other specialist opener in the side, Pieter Malan, or recall Temba Bavuma and juggle the batting order to accommodate him and Van der Dussen? There would have been political pressure to include Bavuma but then what kind of message would that have sent to Malan? It would have complicated the batting order too. Would Van der Dussen or Bavuma then been asked to bat out position in the tough opener slot? NO, fortunately common sense has prevailed and Boucher has been firm, clear and decisive in his decision making. Bavuma needs time to recover from his injury. Rushing him back would not be fair to him and he also needs to regain his form. Malan opens and Van der Dussen stays where he is. Boucher’s decisiveness will give the team confidence.