• ‘Proteas face mental challenge’

    What Graeme Smith and Michael Atherton had to say about England’s 241-run win over South Africa in the first Test at Kingsmead.

    On England’s performance
    Atherton: ‘It was an exceptional all-round performance. England have been very reliant on Root and Cook in the last 18 months or so. The fact that England can win so convincingly without significant performances from Root and Cook and in the absence of Jimmy Anderson as well, I think it will give them great hope going to Cape Town and the rest of this series.
    ‘South Africa have a lot of question marks, but England look very well organised and well drilled. You could pick one or two holes in the England performance in terms of individuals: an underwhelming debut for Alex Hales and one or two errors behind the stumps from Jonny Bairstow, but apart from that it was almost a perfect performance really.’

    On South Africa’s problems
    Smith: ‘There is a lot of uncertainty in that team. It’s in the batting line-up [South Africa’s problems]. The bowlers have been taking 20 wickets for the last period of time, but they haven’t posted 250 in seven Test matches and not one 100-partnership for the whole South African team this whole year. That is a crazy stat and something they need to put right in the new year. They have to look at who are the batters who can get the job done and get them in. It has to start at the top of the order. If we can get a 100-partnership in the top three it will take all the pressure off everyone else. They need to get an opener and then I would take the gloves away from AB de Villiers and get someone in to do that job. ‘It’s in the head now, it’s in the mental side of the game that they need to pull together. They need leadership to be strong and make good decisions for the team.’
    Atherton: ‘They look a fragile side at the moment. Confidence in the batting order is obviously thin. They have to sort out the De Villiers situation with the gloves and then Hashim Amla, he looks a slightly passive, reluctant captain to me so they need to decide what they are going to do there as well.’

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