The top-order failings throughout the series means the Proteas were fortunate to have won the series against New Zealand.
The third Test was disappointing to watch, and it showed, once again, that there are some changes that need to be made in the Proteas lineup.
On paper, a series win and moving up to No 2 in the world looks good, but a drawn series would have been a much fairer reflection of the quality of cricket played. The Proteas haven’t lost a series this season, but the series wins came against sides struggling for form. Sri Lanka were severely short of experience, and Australia relied too heavily on Steve Smith and David Warner.
Opting to hand Theunis de Bruyn his debut at the top of the order was a poor call. He’s a middle-order batsman. He scored a duck and then was unlucky to get run out. So what now? What were they hoping to achieve? Does De Bruyn get another shot at opening, even though he’s a middle-order batsman? If there’s no opener in domestic South African cricket better than Stephen Cook, then they must stick with him.
The standard of first-class cricket in South Africa is not particularly good, and the openers still aren’t forthcoming, which is worrying.
Our middle order is shocking, but it’s difficult to make changes with the transformation targets. I chatted to the convener of selectors, Linda Zondi, and he asked me, ‘Mr Pollock, are you happy with the team?’ I replied, ‘It’s looking good, but we all know it’s not the best possible team.’ He agreed.
Hashim Amla’s experience is still very important and Quinton de Kock’s runs down the order are vital. There should be a case for Khaya Zondo in that middle-order, who has had an excellent season with the Dolphins.
They’ve still managed to grind out the victories however, and I think Faf du Plessis has had a big role to play in this. There’s a good spirit in the side, and he’s managed to get his side fired up across the formats.
The Test series in England in July is going to be good series. It will be a yardstick as to how well the Proteas have responded after dropping as low as No 7 in the Test rankings. If the Proteas do well in England, then that will be a massive challenge that they’ve managed to step up to.
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