The Proteas will try to be as boring as possible when they face the West Indies in two Tests in the Caribbean starting on Thursday.
CAPE TOWN – Be boring and be boring for as long as possible. As a philosophy for Test cricket it doesn’t sound like something that will attract viewers, but for the Proteas, it is the foundation that new captain Dean Elgar believes their Test match play needs at the moment.
“The captain speaks about playing boring cricket for a long period,” Proteas bowling coach Charl Langeveldt said. “You need to be able to do the same things for a long time.”
Elgar does boring very well. Mixed with plenty of grit and discipline, he epitomises the old school tough nut, that thrives on putting his body on the line for his side. When it comes to boring, Elgar’s got evidence to show his younger less experienced teammates, about how well boring works to win Test matches.
His partnership with Hashim Amla in South Africa’s first innings of the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth saw the pair score 88 runs in 46 overs. In the middle session on the second day they scored 50 runs.
Commentators were bemoaning South Africa’s dull approach. But it was needed. It tired out Australia’s potent attack just enough for AB de Villiers to flourish later, setting up one of South Africa’s best victories on home soil, and helping to turn that controversial series South Africa’s way.
No one really remembers the boring stuff. But boring would be a good way for South Africa to arrest a Test slump that has seen the Proteas win just three of their last 13 matches.
“He demands professionalism and discipline from the players and says a strong team ethos is important, which is a good thing. It’s something we needed to revisit,” Langeveldt said about Elgar.
“He asked a lot of senior players to speak to youngsters and lead by example in practice. In a social way senior guys speaking to a youngster on cricketing terms, telling them things like ‘bowling no balls in the nets is not the thing.’ His big things are being disciplined and professional.”
The fruits of those seeds won’t be seen until the Proteas take to the field on Thursday. Patience is something they definitely need with the bat, given all the failures in recent years, but it is the same with the ball, particularly for bowlers who’ve watched their teammates make so many errors in the field.
For South Africa, this series does come with a few differences compared to previous trips to the Caribbean, the most notable from a playing perspective being the ball. Langeveldt remembered playing with a Kookaburra ball when he last played in the West Indies, but for this year’s two match series, a Duke ball – manufactured in the UK – which has a more pronounced seam and stays harder for longer, will be used.
“Ball maintenance is key. Of course we can’t use saliva, so we need to find a way to shine the ball.”
In terms of personnel, there is plenty for the selectors to choose from. Langeveldt, given his background as a fast bowler, favours picking more frontline seamers. Certainly Anrich Nortjé, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi would represent a powerful trio of quicks to take on the West Indies. With Wiaan Mulder able to provide more support, that will leave Keshav Maharaj as the only spinner.
Form and conditions will dictate the composition of the starting eleven – with some of the former being judged during a two day warm-up match that concluded late on Monday evening (SA time) while the latter will be assessed Wednesday or perhaps even on the opening morning on Thursday.
All the players and management staff returned negative tests for Covid-19, meaning they’re now out of quarantine and can move freely around the hotel and attend training.
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West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Jomel Warrican
South Africa: Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Peterson, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams, Prenelan Subrayen, Marco Jansen.