Proteas captain Dean Elgar was left lamenting his side’s poor batting after England sped to a series-clinching win in the third Test at The Oval.
England needed just 25 minutes of playing time on Monday’s scheduled fifth day to wrap up a dominant nine-wicket victory for a 2-1 campaign triumph.
But in a three-Test series where no match went beyond the third day’s play, England’s success in south London was achieved in just over two days of actual cricket, with Thursday’s opener washed out before Friday was abandoned completely as a mark of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
With the pitch having had more time than usual to ‘sweat’ under the covers, late-season English conditions, often a testing environment for batting, were made that much more difficult and it was no surprise when South Africa were dismissed for a meagre 118.
England fared little better in making 158, with both sides boasting a strong seam attack and a fallible top order.
South Africa’s second-innings 169 left England with just 130 to chase and the hosts knocked off the runs inside 23 overs.
This match represented the fourth-shortest Test staged in England in terms of the number of balls – 909 – and the briefest in the country in 110 years.
But a Proteas batting lineup now had already been struggling.
The tourists managed just one individual fifty in three matches – opener Sarel Erwee’s 73 during an innings and 12-run win in the first Test at Lord’s.
South Africa, still in contention for a World Test Championship final berth, are next in red-ball action during a three-match series away to Australia later this year.
But that will be the Proteas’ last such campaign until 2026, with their intervening Test series in the recently published Future Tours Programme a maximum of two matches each.
Add in that the launch next year of a new domestic T20 franchise competition – which Cricket South Africa chiefs hope will prove a money-spinner – will cut across a first-class programme that has itself been reduced from 10 matches to seven a side, and the difficulty in developing the Proteas’ next generation of Test batsmen becomes all too apparent.
“I always bank on experience,” said 35-year-old opener Elgar, a veteran of 79 Tests.”I know we don’t have that at the Test level.
“My next best thing is who do we have with experience in first-class cricket back home?”
Elgar, who averaged a mere 21.40 in the England series compared to a career mark of 38.83, added: “It was up there with really tough conditions, even for myself and I’ve got a relatively decent amount of experience. I can only imagine how a guy with one or two Tests under his belt must feel.”
One consolation for South Africa was the form of Marco Jansen, who continued an impressive start to his Test career by topping both the tourists’ batting and bowling averages.
Jansen scored 82 runs at 27.33 and the towering 22-year-old left-arm quick took nine wickets at 13.11 apiece – and all this in two matches after Jansen was misguidedly dropped from the team that lost the second Test by an innings and 85 runs.
“He is a massive talent,” said Elgar of Jansen, who has now played seven Tests. “I do think he approaches the game with more of a positive mindset. He has got no baggage, no cobwebs in his closet … he has never really been hurt or failed at a young age.”
Elgar often became irked when repeatedly asked about England’s so-called Bazball approach, a reference to the attacking intent with which they played under coach Brendon McCullum.
England have now won six of their seven Tests under a new leadership duo of McCullum and captain Ben Stokes, but Elgar said: “I didn’t see that ‘B-word’ at all coming through, I just felt they controlled it well.
“Throughout the whole series, I thought they played pretty accurate Test cricket.”
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