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Concern as SA A batters again fail to kick on from good starts

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This season alone, almost all of the South Africa A top six batters have scored a ton, and the new season has seen only two rounds of four-day cricket in Division One. When it comes to international cricket, however, batters seem to struggle to put together innings that are big enough to influence the result of the match.

Keegan Petersen is one of the SA A batters with Test experience who has not managed to dominate bowling attacks. Picture: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix.

IF THERE is anything that has been of concern at national level, particularly on the batting front, it has been the overwhelming lack of big scores.

Domestically it is a totally different story as batters regularly cross the three-figure mark in the CSA 4-Day competition.

This season alone, almost all of the South Africa A top six batters have scored a ton, and the new season has seen only two rounds of four-day cricket in Division One. When it comes to international cricket, however, batters seem to struggle to put together innings that are big enough to influence the result of the match.

Similar to how the home team’s batters finished day one of the first unofficial Test in Benoni – where Tony de Zorzi (55), Keegan Peterson (59) and Clyde Fortuin (53) failed to convert their starts into big scores – the first day of the second unofficial Test in East London saw an almost identical story unfold.

The batters were expected to take things up a notch at Buffalo Park, having lost last week’s series opener at Willowmoore Park. Instead, De Zorzi (44), Raynard van Tonder (50) and Petersen (67) found it hard to stamp their authority on the match.

Petersen and Van Tonder combined for a third-wicket partnership of 39 runs before Van Tonder mistimed an attempted cut off the bowling of Jair McAllister (2/64) and was comfortably caught by Zachary McCaskie.

Khaya Zondo (35) fought hard alongside Petersen as the pair combined for 86 runs for the fourth wicket and put the hosts in a commanding position on 208/4 after 67 overs.

However, spinner Kevin Sinclair (2/53) and McAllister would come back for spells towards the end of the day’s play and the pair quickly got into the wickets once more, this time accounted for Zondo and Clyde Fortuin (12).

Spinner Kevin Sinclair reaped the rewards of disciplined bowling on a strip that provided very little for spinners on day one. His spin twin, Abhijai Mansingh (0/41), struggled to find consistency and allowed the hosts to reach stumps with a decent score of 266/6, with Ruan de Dwardt (25*) and Mihlali Mpongwana (12*) still at the crease.

Earlier, last week’s centurion, captain Neil Brand (4), was trapped lbw by Joseph (2-39), handing the visitors their first wicket of the day with the score on 18/1 before umpires decided to take an early lunch due to unplayable conditions.

All-in-all, the quote, “hundreds win Test matches, not half-centuries”, still carries weight and is as relevant as it was when Herschel Gibbs said it when the Proteas batting unit collectively scored only two Test centuries in five series from December 2021 to December 2022.

Test coach Shukri Conrad has seen this time and time again, and is by no means looking for half-centuries, despite this being a young batting group with only Petersen, De Zorzi and Zondo having had a taste of Test cricket.

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