• Boucher back where he belongs

    One match into his time in charge of the team he served with distinction, Mark Boucher knows that there’s still a mountain to climb to get the Proteas back to their rightful place in the game, writes DANIEL GALLAN.

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    Boucher’s career as a cricketer was cruelly cut short. Playing in a warm-up match during South Africa’s tour of England in 2012, the wicketkeeper with more Test dismissals than any other was standing up to the stumps when an errant bail made contact with his left eye.

    Now, as Proteas coach, having presided over a 107-run win over England in his first match in charge, one of South Africa’s favourite cricket sons can barely contain his joy.

    ‘It’s a great feeling,’ Boucher said after his team’s impressive performance across four days at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

    ‘There have been quite a few changes that have been made in the dressing room [since he was last involved with the national team] but the spirit is still there, the passion is still there.

    ‘Watching the guys walk in, there were quite a few lumps in the throat which means it it means a lot for them to win a game of Test cricket. I’ve been out of Proteas cricket for quite some time now, so it’s an honour for me to walk into the change room and be a part of hopefully a change in South African cricket.’

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    One victory will not define Boucher’s legacy, and with three matches still to play in this series there is a lot of work to do. For now, at least, this new coach is off to a dream start.

    ‘It’s been a hectic few weeks,’ Boucher said.

    ‘There’s been a lot of hard work as a coaching staff and from our management team as well. This is reward for all the hard work.

    ‘I’m also happy for the guys for the way they went out.

    ‘We said before we were trying to instil a bit of confidence in the players. Seeing them walk off the field, there was a sense of belief that we can win matches against good teams and hopefully we can take that forward and take that momentum.’

    It was not a perfect match for the Proteas and Aiden Markram’s hand injury means the opener will miss the rest of the series. When asked who will step into the void, Boucher did not miss a beat.

    ‘Pieter Malan was selected in the squad as a top-order batter and for us to go messing around with the opening position wouldn’t be clever,’ Boucher explained. ‘He’s done a lot of good work, got a lot of hundreds [in domestic cricket], he knows his game well and [Newlands, the venue for the second Test on 3 January] is his home ground.’

    Belief and confidence.

    These are two traits that have been in short supply in South African cricket both on and off the field throughout 2019. An awful year has been bookended with a resounding triumph.

    With a proven winner at the helm, there is renewed optimism for the new year.

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    Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

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