London — South African batsmen have been dismissed 102 times in SA’s past six Tests‚ starting with the match against New Zealand in Dunedin in March.
But only twice have they been able to raise their bats to acknowledge the crowd’s appreciation for a century as they’ve walked off‚ and both times he has been Dean Elgar.
Elgar made 140 in the draw in Dunedin and 136 at The Oval‚ where England beat SA by 239 runs in the third Test on Monday to take a 2-1 series lead. Two out of 102?
That gives SA a century-scoring percentage of 1.96% in the past five months.
Might the problem be that SA have not played on a bona fide batting pitch in that time?
All the surfaces presented to the team in New Zealand and England have tilted towards bowlers of various shades — not unfairly‚ but clearly.
Swings and roundabouts‚ Russell Domingo said. "We don’t mind [more responsive surfaces] because it brings our bowlers into the game.
"We feel that we are a very good side when the ball is doing a bit and we usually find a way to scrap a decent score and our bowlers are very effective.
"If you ask the batsmen‚ they would say they want to bat in Potch and Kimberley every single weekend.
"The bowlers would like to bowl at The Oval this past weekend or Wellington, where it’s nipped around‚ or the Wanderers on a green wicket.
"It’s a catch-22. Your batting stats are always going to take a bit of a dive and your bowling stats are going to improve."
What’s a South African batsman to do? Use a bigger bat?
Maybe not‚ because soon there will be no more pushing the corners of an envelope that has been swelling for years.
As of October‚ when new regulations come into effect‚ bats will be limited to a width of 108mm‚ a depth of 67mm and 40mm at their edges.
How big is that? Too big for David Warner to use the chunk of willow he favours for T20s‚ the Kaboom — which is 85mm deep and has edges of more than 50mm.
But Chris King‚ a bat maker with Gray-Nicholls‚ the manufacturer of the Kaboom‚ says size is not nearly everything.
"Everybody gets obsessed with the shape of the cricket bat‚ but the actual power comes from how well the piece of wood is pressed‚" King said.
"That is an area that most people don’t understand. They assume it’s just the size.
"If it was that easy‚ it would be a lot easier to make a good cricket bat.
"I often joke with people that it’s like saying a Ferrari is fast because it’s red. It completely undermines what the engine is."
Much about cricket has changed and is changing‚ from bat size to send-offs for badly behaved players.
But the engine of a Test team’s batting unit is still runs‚ and the most efficient and sure-fire way to gather them remains players spending long enough at the crease to score centuries.
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