KOBUS PRETORIUS examines the hosts ahead of the second Test between South Africa and England in Cape Town.
Batting is a shambles
So much of South Africa’s struggles over the last few months can be attributed to the performance, or lack thereof, of the batsmen. Hashim Amla identified the problem as a lack of confidence and he is right. The only way to overcome that is by scoring runs, but with England welcoming back James Anderson for the Newlands Test, the challenge will only get more difficult.
South Africa are facing one of their biggest mental challenges in the last 10 years. Losing the series against England without winning a Test will constitute a crisis and will see them lose their No 1 ranking. Mental preparation will be key heading into Newlands and is the only way to overcome the lack of confidence among the batsmen. Dean Elgar showed the way with his fighting hundred in Durban and a similar fight must be shown by the rest of the batsmen.
Hashim Amla is now starting to understand how Graeme Smith must have felt for parts of his career when everyone called for his head. It took Smith years to grow into the captaincy and by his own admission he made a lot of mistakes early on. Amla said on Wednesday he was still keen to lead the side but the only way he can keep the wolves from the door is by scoring runs. A struggling captain in a struggling team can only lead to one thing – a resignation. Amla needs runs which, for starters, will improve the team. But more importantly he needs to show strong leadership to try and prevent a looming crisis.
Allan Donald said before the series started that South Africa had good depth in the bowling department. With Dale Steyn not playing in Cape Town and Kyle Abbott nursing a tight hamstring, that statement will be put to the test at Newlands. Injuries to key bowlers is the last thing South Africa need since they are already struggling with the bat. The only positive so far has been the bowling. Now they have to face England in a must-win game without the likes of Steyn and Vernon Philander. Morne Morkel can do the job and Kagiso Rabada shows promise but Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen, who have been called up as cover, are untested at international level.
De Kock has to play
It would make no sense to call up Quinton de Kock, who wasn’t part of the initial squad for the first two Tests, and not play him at Newlands. South Africa are relying on AB de Villiers’ batting now more than ever and taking the gloves away from him will allow him to concentrate solely on that aspect of his game. De Kock is in form and is the long-term wicketkeeping solution. With his inclusion, South Africa lose a specialist batsman, but they simply have to rely on the batsmen they have to get the runs.