Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa
Interim Proteas coach Malibongwe Maketa has no doubt that South Africa are heading in the right direction as they build towards the first Test against Australia in Brisbane over the weekend.
The tourists drew their only warm-up fixture – a four-day encounter against a Cricket Australia XI played at The Allan Border Field – with most of their batters enjoying some much-needed time in the middle.
This had been an area of concern after their last tour to England earlier when the team struggled for big runs, albeit in difficult batting conditions. Now Maketa is optimistic of their prospects in the first of three Tests starting in Brisbane on Saturday.
“I am very happy with where we are at the moment,” he said. “We have been lucky to have come here and spent time and played in the conditions similar to what we’re going to play in. Allan Border (Field) is a little bit different compared to The Gabba in terms of the bounce and pace, but to be able to be here and play the way we have done has given us a lot of confidence.
“And I am very confident in the sense that batters did get some runs in the warm-up game where (captain) Dean (Elgar) got a good hundred, Kyle (Verreynne) and Theunis (de Bruyn) got nice eighties…everybody got in. Rassie (van der Dussen) got a ninety as well, so in that sense we got our opportunity to spend time in the middle and some of the guys got an opportunity to face enough balls to really make them feel comfortable.
“The bowlers hit the lengths that we’ve been challenging them to hit, so from that point of view I’m very happy.”
There was also praise for limited-overs skipper Temba Bavuma as he played his first long-format match in months. There were fears over the fitness of the right-hander, however, after he did not bat in the first innings on account of discomfort felt in his left elbow. But he returned to bat second time around when he faced nearly 100 deliveries without trouble.
“Very much so (I’m comfortable) because of how he’s batting,” Maketa explained. “It would have been nice for him to have two innings, but he’s batted a lot of volume since we got here. So from that point of view, volume and work he’s put in, I’m very happy with his progress.
“He spent a lot of time in the middle and hit the ball quite nicely. Even at our first practice at The Gabba, he was probably one of the best batters on show there. Where he is mentally, smiling, confident again, that for us bodes very well in terms of being one of our best batters going into this series.”
The South African coach was also asked about the possible make up of his team for the first Test, saying only that it was too early to talk about that so far out before the match.
He added: “Currently we have our ideas, but we want to give the wicket a bit more time. Speaking to the curator here, he feels the wicket is still a long way out to know exactly how it’s going to play and how it’s going to look.
“So we’ll give ourselves more time before making those decisions. If we’ve got a lot of grass and it’s really assisting the bowlers then we’re going to need an extra batter to give us that magical 400-450. If it’s really a tough wicket where you’re going to have to work hard to get your 20 wickets then you’re going to need that extra bowler and trust your top order to get you runs because it’s a good wicket.
“That’s really what is driving us in terms of making a decision on the line-up. We are aware that we’re not here to protect anyone, if we’re going to have to go out there, knuckle down, bat and get big runs then we will go with six batters. If we feel we’ve got enough on the wicket to get through them with three bowlers and a spinner then we’ll make the decision that’s best for the team.”
Proteas Test squad against Australia
Dean Elgar (captain, Momentum Multiply Titans), Temba Bavuma (DP World Lions), Gerald Coetzee (ITEC Knights), Theunis de Bruyn (Momentum Multiply Titans), Sarel Erwee (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Simon Harmer (Momentum Multiply Titans), Marco Jansen (Dafabet Warriors), Heinrich Klaasen (Momentum Multiply Titans), Keshav Maharaj (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Lungi Ngidi (Momentum Multiply Titans), Anrich Nortje (Dafabet Warriors), Kagiso Rabada (DP World Lions), Rassie van der Dussen (DP World Lions), Kyle Verreynne (wicketkeeper, Six Gun Grill Western Province), Lizaad Williams (Momentum Multiply Titans), Khaya Zondo (Hollywoodbets Dolphins).
South Africa Test Tour to Australia Itinerary
Four-day Tour Match
09 – 12 December
Cricket Australia XI drew with South Africa – The Allan Border Field, Brisbane
17 – 21 December
Australia vs South Africa – The Gabba, Brisbane
26 – 30 December
Australia vs South Africa – MCG, Melbourne
04 – 08 January
Australia vs South Africa – SCG, Sydney