It’s not like our guys are out of form‚ says Dale Benkenstein
Batting coach acknowledges top six must buckle down and improve
London — To Dale Benkenstein fell the task of explaining why SA’s batting has not been up to scratch at the World Cup.
So he started by talking about the other side of the equation.
“Our attack has always been our strength‚” batting coach Benkenstein said. “We haven’t had that strength in the last few games. With Beuran [Hendricks] coming back and Lungi [Ngidi] getting fit‚ we are getting closer to having that strength.”
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Hendricks replaced the injured Dale Steyn, while Ngidi is recovering from a hamstring strain that limited him to four overs against Bangladesh and ruled him out of the games against India and the Windies.
Anrich Nortjé did not even make it to England after breaking his thumb days before the squad was due to leave SA.
Ottis Gibson admitted on Saturday that his team’s attack had been “decimated” by injuries.
But the batters have not exactly had a fun time‚ not with Hashim Amla hit in the grille of his helmet by Jofra Archer in the tournament opener against England at the Oval on May 30 and missing the match against Bangladesh.
The Proteas were dismissed for 207 by England‚ fell 21 runs short on 308/9 against Bangladesh‚ stuttered to 227/9 against India‚ and were reduced to 29/2 by West Indies in the 45 deliveries bowled before rain put paid to proceedings.
Benkenstein spoke after the washout in Southampton on Monday and acknowledged his department’s shortcomings.
“The message is that the batters have got to step up — and we haven’t. I feel like we are batting well but we just haven’t done it long enough. Everyone has got in; we’ve had opportunities to have hundred partnerships. We are a game away‚ a hundred away‚ a win away‚ from getting that confidence back.”
No South African has yet faced 80 balls in an innings‚ and only Quinton de Kock‚ Rassie van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis have been around for more than 100 deliveries in the tournament. They are also the only players to have scored half-centuries‚ but no-one has yet reached 70.
By contrast‚ Steve Smith and David Warner have both faced 200 balls for Australia‚ and Jason Roy‚ Joe Root and Jos Buttler have all made centuries for England.
But Benkenstein was keeping the faith in SA’s underperforming top six‚ perhaps because he had little choice.
“It’s not like guys are out of form‚” he said. “We have got ourselves in and then we’ve got out. That’s a mental thing.
“[Monday] was a day where we wanted to put that right and it doesn’t help not getting enough time in the middle. I really feel we are one game away from getting all those things right. If we get that right‚ the confidence levels will be up there and then we may peak at the right time.”
As for why SA were struggling at the crease‚ Benkenstein said the team’s underwhelming record in previous editions of a tournament in which they have yet to reach the final could be causing nervousness.
Then there is the evolution of the one-day game. “Scores are much higher than they used to be. Teams are scoring big totals so when you are in and you are dominating‚ you’ve got to try and make the most of it.
“Sometimes we don’t get that balance right. We try and accelerate maybe a bit too fast rather than getting our heads down and ticking it over [with] the batters getting us to the end of the game.
“[We need] that patience of getting us deeper [in the innings] and then we have got some good hitters at the end.
“We’ve relied on our bowlers‚ and them and the all-rounders have batted well. But it’s for that top six to bat the majority of the overs. Maybe it’s patience more than hunger that we need.”
It’s runs you need‚ coach. Who scores them does not really matter. But you cannot rely on the bowlers.