JOHANNESBURG – Outside of the team bubble, there may be questions about the Proteas’ batting and how they can get more out of themselves, but within the group, there’s an awareness that building confidence is just as important.
South Africa’s T20 record since Mark Boucher became head coach is dreadful. Of the 16 matches played before the series in the Caribbean, they’d won just four, and lost every series. A change in captaincy earlier this year didn’t bring immediate success, because that captain, Temba Bavuma, was out injured against Pakistan.
In fact a number of the top players were missing as South Africa lost a home series 1-3 to a resurgent Pakistan team, with Babar Azam starring.
The West Indies with all their depth, power and experience is a significant challenge, but South Africa, despite the problems with the batting, find themselves on the brink of truly significant triumph, if they can win one of the two remaining matches. “We did mention that winning games like this is key to how we want to go about things going forward. It adds confidence to me, the bowlers and the rest of the batters. Winning these close games is a good sign,” Quinton de Kock said immediately after South Africa’s one run win on Tuesday night, that gave them a 2-1 lead in the series.
The fourth match is on Thursday, and an unexpected prize awaits should they continue their winning streak.
This has been a series in which the team’s batting has understandably been criticised, with starts wasted in every match thus far. De Kock, typically, didn’t sound too concerned, blaming conditions for the Proteas’ problems with the bat in the second half of their innings. “The ‘in’ batsmen have to bat longer, it is tough for the new batsmen to get going. We have to make sure that one of the top 4 bats right through just to play it safe.”
De Kock provided that safety net on Tuesday making 72 and was dismissed in the 18th over. However, none of the other batsmen has been able to punish the West Indies in the latter stages. One notable difference is in the number of sixes struck – the West Indies have cleared the ropes 33 times in the series to South Africa’s 13.
And yet, it is South Africa that holds the advantage in the series. Primarily that is down to the bowlers, with Tabraiz Shamsi showing why he is the shortest format’s no.1 ranked bowler. “Shammo needs to keep controlling that middle period, it makes my job easier as captain,” said Temba Bavuma.
Shamsi’s series figures are 4/46 in 12 overs, with Tuesday evening’s performance suggesting the West Indies are struggling to read him.
Nevertheless, the batsmen know the bowlers won’t keep bailing them out of trouble. “We definitely can (do better), we were looking at 180 today,” said De Kock while acknowledging that in Dwayne Bravo and Obed McCoy the home team had two bowlers, whose variations have flummoxed the Proteas. “They have experience and guys with some good skills in their bowling department. We will talk about how to get those extra 20 runs at the end.”
Bavuma too, was not satisfied that the batsmen weren't finishing off in the manner they’d like. “We will continue to have those conversations. 180 is a good score here, and we have to challenge ourselves and we are striving to get there.”