Four key points that could explain South Africa’s crushing defeat to New Zealand, in just three days, during the first Test in Christchurch over the weekend.
New Zealand has some of the strictest quarantine conditions in the world, and when they arrived in the country, the Proteas’ chances to train ahead of the game were severely limited.
Once released, they only had a few days to fully prepare and that had a detrimental effect on their performance.
Team management needs to be addressed as there was no warm-up match to prepare for the conditions they would face, and captain Dean Elgar admitted that would have been a big boost.
“I think it would have been nice to have a warm-up match. It would have given us a bit more of an indication in terms of the playing capacity. It’s one thing to train at facilities, and you almost give yourself a blueprint when you enter a test, but we all know that trying to replicate a match gives you a clearer picture of what’s expected of the conditions and the playing point of view,” said Elgar.
Few of the current Proteas squad have seen a test match in New Zealand, only Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Keshav Maharaj have played there before.
This resulted in the rest of the squad being completely unprepared for the conditions, which affected their bat and ball performance.
An important moment came when New Zealand skipper Tom Latham won the toss as it was expected that whoever won it would immediately choose to bowl.
“It’s a fantastic performance and winning the toss was an important part of that. We’re used to these conditions, so we put pressure on their bowlers and scored with four left and we kept building partnerships,” Latham said.
Trouble off the field
Despite the captain’s denial, the problems off the Proteas’ field must have an impact on the team.
Coach Mark Boucher has an upcoming disciplinary hearing being brought by his employer Cricket SA and a number of players are expected to testify in it.
Whether the players support the coach or not, this should definitely have an impact on the morale of the team, which can lead to them not playing well together.
However, this falls on the shoulders of CSA who have once again created a situation while the Proteas are playing – as they did at the T20 World Cup – rather than figuring things out when their national team is not in action.
However, Elgar denies it played any role, saying: “These are absolutely not foreign terms for us in regards to what happened off the pitch. I don’t see that as an influence within our camp. I think individuals may be able to answer that, but I don’t see it having an impact in the past few days.”
Batting and fielding
The Proteas battle issues are not new and have been a major problem for this team for a while now. They have struggled with the bat in all three formats in the game and more often than not have been saved by a top class bowling attack. The Proteas bowlers are not perfect and have had some issues here and there, but are generally the reason for their successes in recent years. However, the batting division has struggled to find a successful opening partnership, while the middle order has been exposed when sent early and has had a number of collapses. On the field front, the team was once ranked as the best in the world, they have had stunning fall form. Their fieldwork in recent times has been downright dismal and has even become a problem for some of their best outfielders, with Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram guilty of some horrendous drops in recent matches.