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Proteas need to buck up in the field

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At practice, the guys are pulling off unbelievable catches and the intensity is brilliant, according to the Proteas coach.

Mark Boucher, coach of South Africa cannot explain why a team that is so intense during practice are so bad during a match. Picture: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

THE ONE area in which the Proteas have been consistent this season has been fielding – whatever the format, whoever the players, South Africa’s fielding has been consistently bad.

They know it too. As does the coaching staff. “We try not to be so bad in the field,” remarked stand-in captain Heinrich Klaasen following Wednesday’s third T20 international defeat against Pakistan. “At training we are brilliant. I think it’s guys maybe trying too hard and not being calm enough in the field.

“It is something we will address again. It’s been a trend that we have to get rid of.”

In a historical context, it is incredible that Pakistan would be deemed a better fielding unit than the Proteas, but that has been the case both in Pakistan – in February – and in the ODIs and T20s played in SA in the last few weeks.

After the Test series in Pakistan – won 2-0 by the hosts – Proteas head coach Mark Boucher, made the stunning admission that fielding “was the big difference.” SA had dropped a number of good chances in that second Test, giving Pakistan much-needed momentum.

Fielding errors are almost as regular a feature of SA’s play as the batting collapses of the Test team.

“At the moment, we are not fielding at the standards that South African cricket is used to,” Boucher said yesterday.

The quality of fielding has been slipping for years. Going into the 2019 World Cup, SA had the look of an “old” and unathletic team, with certain individuals that needed to be “hidden” in the field. It’s only gotten worse since.

The standards aren’t just lousy at international level. The recent T20 Challenge in Durban highlighted just how alarmingly SA’s standards have slipped in the fielding department. Throwing from the boundary was inaccurate, catches were dropped virtually every game, and, but for a few sporadic instances, the intensity in the field from all the teams was desperately poor.

Unlike batting or bowling, where the opposition has a direct influence on an outcome – fielding is solely dependent on the players. The intensity, understanding the angles in the field, the commitment and technique all comes down to training and the individual’s ability to re-enact what happens at practice.

Twice in the second over of Wednesday’s match – bowled by Beuran Hendricks – the South Africans made mistakes that were down to a lack of concentration, costing two runs. It may have had no bearing on the outcome, but those mistakes, coming so early, helped lift Pakistan spirits, and set the tone for SA.

Hendricks, who didn’t bowl well, also had a catch dropped off his bowling, a simple chance missed by Pite van Biljon at the start of the 14th over.

Boucher admitted that the coaching staff “were pushing the guys so hard at training,” and it was frustrating that what was happening at training wasn’t being replicated on the field. “The guys are pulling off unbelievable catches and the intensity is brilliant,” Boucher said.

“We have shown in pockets what we can do as a fielding side. We need guys to stand up. The questions we are asking players is: ‘why is the intensity and energy not where it should be?’ It’s there when we are training.”

A consistent and improved fielding performance will be needed if SA are to pull off a series tying win at SuperSport Park on Friday afternoon. The match starts at 2.30pm.

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