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Hard work ahead

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“We are getting stuck in and trying to get as many runs as we can get to give our bowlers the best opportunity they can get."

IN THE BAG: Proteas team celebrates after securing a series whitewash against Pakistan by winning the third Test at the Wanderers yesterday. Picture: Itumeleng English ANA

South Africa vs Pakistan
Third Test, the Wanderers

South Africa 262 and 303

Pakistan 185 and 273

RESULT: SA won by 107 runs

SERIES: SA won Test series 3-0

The Proteas’ first opponents this summer lacked the pedigree, skill and temperament of the teams that toured the country last season, and against whom South Africa were successful, so judging where the national team is currently is difficult.

Following the wrapping up of a Test series clean-sweep against Pakistan yesterday, stand-in skipper Dean Elgar, felt there were areas that had improved with SA’s game compared to last summer when they beat India and Australia, but that other areas – most notably the batting – could be better.

But that need for improvement with the bat needs to be put into perspective. “Our Test wickets are very tough,” said Elgar. “I’d like to think we can still score big runs in South Africa, I suppose you can if you apply yourself and if you’re in a very good mental space, but the wickets are very tough.”

In this series, especially in the first two Tests, that was most certainly the case. The Proteas’ coach Ottis Gibson stuck to his argument that batsmen could still make runs, but given SA’s fast-bowling resources, it would be silly if the home team didn’t set up conditions to suit their strengths.

“We wanted to play four fast bowlers, the pitches suited that. They did a fantastic job. Batsmen struggled for runs, but batsmen still got runs. We got two hundreds in the series,” Gibson explained.

Best batters

They were the only two hundreds in the series as well. The 17 half-centuries suggest scoring wasn’t impossible, but that it was very hard work. “There will be more sensitivity around how batsmen are judged (in SA),” said Elgar. “I don’t want to say the days of averaging 45-plus are gone, I still think there is room for that, the best batters will reach those goals.

“But it will be a challenge, you won’t be as free flowing on the wickets we are playing (on). A bit more hard cricket, gritting it out, free scoring needs to be put to the side until you get in, it will be hard work for batters going forward.”

Indeed when asked if Theunis de Bruyn was in danger of losing his spot – he averaged 18.66 and had a highest score of 49 – for the Tests against Sri Lanka next month, Gibson firmly said: “No”.

“I keep saying to the batters, when the wickets are like this you don’t need to score 500, it’s not necessary. If we get 262, on a fast bouncy track 262 with our fast bowlers is a great score because we know we can knock a team over for under that, which is what we did. It’s been tough for the batters, they might complain outside the dressing-room, but within the dressing-room no one is complaining about the pitches.

“We are getting stuck in and trying to get as many runs as we can get to give our bowlers the best opportunity they can get.

“You have to play to your strength and if your strength is four quality fast bowlers then use those,” said Gibson. “Our batsmen are comfortable playing on those pitches. We will continue to play this brand of cricket because it’s successful.”