Proteas coach Ottis Gibson wants his top-order batsmen to take more responsibility against Australia in the second Test starting at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
SA are chasing the game having lost the first Test in Durban on Sunday and they need to win at the country’s oldest Test venue to get back on track for a series victory. To achieve that‚ Gibson says, SA’s best batsmen need to man up.
"You can’t bat that badly in your first innings against a top team like Australia and expect to win the Test match‚" Gibson said on Wednesday. "Even though we gave ourselves a good chance of winning in the end‚ the poor batting in the first innings probably cost us."
In Durban‚ SA crashed from 150/5 to 162 all out in six ugly first-innings overs.
AB de Villiers was left stranded — unbeaten on 71 — but as for the rest, it was forgettable. The Proteas were on the back foot from then on, apart from an outstanding 147-run second-innings partnership between Aiden Markram (143) and Quinton de Kock (83).
Mitchell Starc‚ who took nine wickets in the first Test on the back of some fine reverse swing‚ still looms large for the South Africans‚ especially to their lower order.
"I think in the second innings when our best batters were facing him [Starc]… not that he wasn’t a threat‚ but the threat wasn’t as great as when the lower-order batters were facing him. So our top-order batters have to bat a lot better‚" added the 48-year-old Bajan.
"The Australians are a very good side. They have some quality all through their side and in their bowling attack. Obviously‚ Starc was the difference-maker in Durban. Often you do a lot of homework on a guy and then he has a special day or game like he did and that can happen. Hopefully‚ we will be better prepared for him this time around."
Conditions at St George’s Park are expected to favour reverse swing, but Gibson believes there will also be some sideways action off the deck.
"Yeah‚ I believe so‚ the surface in Port Elizabeth might offer us a little more lateral movement in terms of seam than Durban did and reverse swing on day three and four will most likely come into it."
Did he think his current make-up of seven specialist batsmen was still the way to go in their quest to beat the Australians? "We’ll look at the pitch here. When you look at the nature of the pitch and the Aussie line-up you feel like you need an extra batter. We bowled them out twice but weren’t able to get enough runs‚ especially in the first innings."
The coach said that Temba Bavuma is a lot closer to playing after being sidelined by a finger injury and he may come into the reckoning for a middle-order spot if SA do decide to make a change.
"Temba is being assessed at the moment by the medical staff. Last week he felt like he wasn’t 100%. He’s had an extra week now and is hitting more balls as well, so hopefully he’ll be closer to playing."
SA also struggled to dismiss the Australian tail in Durban, and Gibson was asked if fast bowler Lungi Ngidi would be considered for selection because of his ability to bowl yorkers.
"Lungi is a part of the team so he will come in not only to bowl to the tailenders. You’ve got to get the top order out before you bowl at the tailenders.
"So when we look at what we need as the best team to play in this Test match then we’ll see which 11 people we pick."