South Africa A coach Malibongwe Maketa has reflected on their tour to India that concluded on Friday, calling the trip good foresight by those who planned it, even though results did not go in their favour.
The visitors lost a rain-ravaged five-match one-day series against India A 4-1, before going on to lose the two-match four-day series 1-0 to the same opponents.
Of all the games, the final one in Mysore was arguably the most encouraging after big centuries for captain Aiden Markram and Wiaan Mulder, while there were good bowling run-outs for the likes of Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi and Dane Piedt.
Seven of the players in the SA A XI are part of the Proteas squad scheduled to face India in a three-match Test series starting next week and the experience gained from the A tour will serve the national players well, according to Maketa.
‘It was great foresight by Cricket South Africa to make sure they had their A team there to help their Test players to prepare,’ the coach said. ‘Because really to win in India you need to spend a lot of time there.
‘And, if you look now, the players who are going to go into the Test series, they would have spent at least two weeks before the first warm-up game for the Proteas, which is a big positive for us in terms of acclimatisation, in terms of millage on the legs and also the fitness of the players.
‘They know what to expect going into that first Test being there for a while now, so that’s really good and it’s something that we must look to do a lot.
‘Other nations are doing it and it’s one of the reasons why they are successful overseas. We are going to be playing so much cricket in the sub-continent so it’s going to be vital for us to be able to dominate there.’
Although not in the Test squad, Mulder ended as the top run-getter in the four-day sequence with 198 runs in three innings, while man-of-the-series Markram was not too far behind with 165 in his three outings.
The skipper was especially impressive in that final innings, striking an assured 161. Spinner Piedt, meanwhile, who will be aiming to mark his return to the Test team after three years out, ended as the top wicket-taker with nine strikes in over 80 overs.
‘That last game was very encouraging,’ Maketa said. ‘To see Aiden bat the way he did, he really showed his class. Wiaan also played a great innings in support. So those two centuries were a big positive for us.
‘Vernon also got through a lot of overs coming in, Lungi as well had some productive work in the two Tests. For them both and all of those going into the main series, they can feel very encouraged.
‘There were a lot of positives for those that are to remain in India. That was exactly the plan going into the Test series for the Proteas coming up.’
‘Apart from those mentioned by Maketa, the two matches – the first of which ended in a seven-wicket loss at Trivandrum – there was also game time for others in the Test squad like Zubayr Hamza, Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen and Senuran Muthusamy.’
Whoever the selectors go for in that opening Test in Visakhapatnam, Maketa had some strong words of advice.
‘First innings runs in India are gold and to be able to bowl a lot of maidens and build pressure, that’s how you’re going to get your wickets,’ he added.
‘Being patient is key and that stuff I’m comfortably sure they know. It’s a matter of applying and doing it for long periods of time.’
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