South Africa

Will the Proteas be able to adapt their aggressive style to Centurion pitch?

By Stuart Hess 52m ago

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JOHANNESBURG – Before the start of the T20 series against Pakistan, the stand-in Proteas captain, Heinrich Klaasen, talked about the home team playing a “positive brand” of cricket with a “street-wise” element built into it.

The second half wasn’t a reference to the sponsors, rather to the way he wanted the players to think on their feet. As for the entire concept, Klaasen couldn’t expand on it, other than to say it’s what the full-time skipper Temba Bavuma wanted, and that the players had bought into that style.

The batting has very clearly reflected that positive intent. In both matches at the Wanderers, the Proteas have rocketed along at a scoring rate of 10 an over in the first half of their innings. In fact they took that run rate of 10 an over, up to the 14th over of both games. In the second T20 International, it gave them the win, following Pakistan’s mediocre performance after batting first.

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In the opening match, the middle order couldn’t build on the start, and the innings fizzled out, with South Africa scoring just 48 runs in the last six overs.

However what those two batting performances showed was an attempt at more aggression and importantly, early on as well, something that was missing when England toured here late last year.

“The message was to be positive,” Klaasen remarked after Monday’s six-wicket win.

“If individuals wanted to take their man on, we were told they should go for it. We wanted to play aggressive cricket, not cowboy cricket.”

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The fact is, as Klaasen also pointed out before the series, the rest of the world was moving in the direction of playing more aggressive T20 cricket, even in some cases with a bit of ‘high ho silver’ attached. Right now it’s the hallmark of India, England and the West Indies’ styles. If South Africa’s players didn’t shift their mindsets, they risked being also-rans at this year’s World Cup in India.

To their credit the players have seemed to want to push themselves out of their comfort zones. On occasion in this series the execution has been lacking but that is understandable, when making a mental shift and adapting to a new style of play.

What will be of interest is how this style will be adapted to different conditions. The Wanderers is the dream venue for limited overs batting. The ball comes onto the bat, the bounce is true, the outfield quick and the air thin allowing lofted shots to fly.

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Some of those elements will be the same at SuperSport Park where the T20 series concludes on Wednesday and Friday. However, the ODIs showed that the Centurion wicket was just a bit slower and the bounce lower than the surface in Corlett Drive. It’s probably not a coincidence that Pakistan’s two wins in the One-Day series both came at SuperSport Park, because conditions are somewhat similar to what they are accustomed.

The real pity about this series is that it doesn’t have any matches taking place at Kingsmead, the new spin kingdom of South African cricket. In the domestic T20 challenge played at that ground recently, there was far too little of the kind of mindset shown by the Proteas batsmen at the Wanderers. Scoring was harder in Durban in that tournament because the pitches spun and because they were slower. That’s how they will be in India, particularly towards the latter stages of the T20 World Cup.

So while, the batsmen may not get a severe examination in Centurion this week, because conditions are slightly different to the Wanderers, some refining in their play will be needed if they are to implement the same style of play, that is set in stone and which will be utilised at the World Cup.

Wednesday’s third T20 International starts at 2.30pm.


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