SA see light on pitches as Indians leave victorious and Aussie tests loom

25 February 2018 - 11:58 By Telford Vice
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis (L) chats to head coach Ottis Gibson before the 2018 T20 International match against India at Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town on 24 February 2018.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis (L) chats to head coach Ottis Gibson before the 2018 T20 International match against India at Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town on 24 February 2018.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

South Africans searching for positives in the debris of India’s tour should be pleased to know that their team have stopped telling groundsmen how to do their jobs.

And a good thing too‚ what with a series of four tests against Australia starting at Kingsmead Stadium on Thursday.

“We have to get to Durban and see what we get‚” South Africa coach Ottis Gibson said on Saturday.

“Everybody knows what happened at the Wanderers Stadium‚ so we’ve left the groundsmen to prepare the best possible pitches that they can this time.”

The Wanderers earned three demerit points for the pitch prepared there for the third test last month‚ which was temporarily suspended after Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet by a short delivery — the last straw after batsmen had taken umpteen blows on their hands and bodies.

Blame that on the bee the South Africans had in their bonnet about leaning on groundsmen to skew conditions further in their favour than they would normally be.

Gibson spoke after India underlined their superiority over South Africa this summer by winning the third T20 at Newlands by seven runs to seal the series 2-1.

Virat Kohli’s men won twice as many matches as the home side on their tour and claimed two of the three trophies.

They won on Saturday even though Kohli‚ their captain and star batsman and his team’s driving force‚ missed the match with a back injury.

The Indians were dominant in the one-day rubber‚ which they owned 5-1 to push South Africa’s 2-1 success in the test series far back in the memory.

South Africa were hamstrung by injuries to Faf du Plessis‚ AB de Villiers‚ Quinton de Kock and Dale Steyn.

Of those players only De Kock has been confirmed as good to go against the Aussies on Thursday.

“Our captain missing [Du Plessis] has been a massive loss‚” Gibson said.

“I’m not sure that AB will be 100% but he’ll be somewhere near and he can take his place in the team. Dale Steyn isn’t far away again.

“We’ve missed the seniors. Having them back will give everybody a lift.”

The upside is that several young players were given opportunities to stake their claims‚ and they took them encouragingly often.

“We’ve seen some exciting new players in the one-day series‚” Gibson said.

“Lungi Ngidi made a debut. Heinrich Klaasen made a debut‚ and he’s been excellent.

“Junior Dala made a debut in this T20 series also was also very good.

“We saw a little bit of Christiaan Jonker [on Saturday]‚ and he played an outstanding innings.

“The result of the series is hard to take but you have to look forward to the future‚ and the future looks for the some of the youngsters like it’s going to be bright.”

Fast bowler Ngidi took match figures of 7/90 on his test debut in Centurion last month and was South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in the ODIs.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Klaasen played important innings in both white-ball series and topped the batting averages for the home side in the ODIs.

In the T20s no South Africa bowler came close to Dala’s return of seven wickets at an average of 15.71.

Jonker played his first game for South Africa on Saturday and smote a fiery 49 off 24 balls that helped his team run the Indians close.

But those singular highlights didn’t add up to a significant challenge against a highly competent‚ assured‚ superbly led Indian team.

They kept winning and winning well‚ and best of all they were impeccably gracious in victory.