• ‘Proteas set-up seems negative’

    SuperSport commentators Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince analyse the third Test against England.

    South Africa lost the Wanderers Test by seven wickets and thereby the series as England took an unassailable 2-0 lead with a game to play.

    On England’s performance
    Prince: ‘I know how much Test cricket means to them. What England do is prepare for Test series and to win Test match series for their country. That’s the only thing they have on their mind and what you hear from our guys is that T20 competitions around the world are a big attraction and they’re not enjoying Test cricket as much anymore. AB de Villiers himself said that. Those sort of comments are alarm bells for us.’

    On what needs to be fixed
    Smith: ‘To be honest with you, bar Newlands, it’s been a pretty poor run for the Test team. It’s disappointing and everyone is going to want answers. I was a bit surprised that Kyle Abbott didn’t play in this game. That was something that shocked me. Every time he has played he’s played well. He was fit and is an experienced bowler. Some of the decision-making around the space looks a bit worrisome for me. The team seems a bit flat. Some of the messages coming out in the press conferences don’t seem positive and it’s coming from senior players. You’re are in a big series and there is a lot of negativity among your senior players. It looks like someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and say, “listen guys, let’s wake up and let’s pull our finger out and let’s go and play some Test cricket”.’

    Or whether it’s a personnel problem
    Prince: ‘Certain players in the team will feel under pressure. You know when your position is under threat. I think AB’s assessment at the post-match ceremony was honest and I think they realise that the first innings; they should have gotten more than 300 and he recognised there were a few soft dismissals. In the second innings he was spot-on again. You have to give credit to Stuart Broad. They were bowled out whereas in the first innings they contributed to too many dismissals.
    ‘Having said that, there isn’t that much wrong, although another batting collapse like today would suggest there are issues.’

    On what the management can do better
    Smith: ‘The players have to take responsibility for their performances; there is no doubt about that, but the management do too. They haven’t quite come into the equation of late. At the end the day the performances of the Test team for the last year haven’t been good enough, so you have to ask questions of everybody. How is management getting the best out of them, how are they preparing them, are they directed in the right way, do they need to be firmer, do they need to be softer? I don’t know. These are all questions that need to come out of the environment. When you are not performing well, people are going to ask questions and you’ve got to live with it.’
    Prince: ‘As a player, I never liked to put blame on anybody else. If I performed, it’s down to me; if I didn’t perform it’s down to me. Are we firm enough in the messages that are sent to the players? When you have underperformed, you need someone to say “look, it wasn’t good enough”.’

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