Enoch Nkwe interim coach of South African cricket team speaks to media after the day 5 of the 1st Test match between India and South Africa at Dr. Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy ACA VDCA Cricket Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Visakhapatnam, India. Picture: ISURU SAMEERA / GALLO IMAGES
Enoch Nkwe interim coach of South African cricket team speaks to media after the day 5 of the 1st Test match between India and South Africa at Dr. Y.S Rajasekhara Reddy ACA VDCA Cricket Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Visakhapatnam, India. Picture: ISURU SAMEERA / GALLO IMAGES

The result says otherwise‚ but in an important sense‚ SA have already improved on their previous performance in a Test series in India.

Virat Kohli’s team won the first Test by 203 runs in Visakhapatnam on Sunday‚ raising the spectre of the 3-0 drubbing SA suffered in India in November 2015.

But a silver lining shines out of Sunday’s debris because SA batted for 195.1 overs in the match which is longer than they managed in any of the games four years ago.

Their first innings of 131.2 overs was longer than the total number they faced in two of the three decided matches in 2015.

Even their second innings of 63.5 overs had them at the crease for longer than five of their seven innings last time‚ three of them first innings.

“I’m proud of how the boys responded after losing the toss‚ that can play around with your mind‚” interim team director Enoch Nkwe said on Sunday.

“We showed a lot of character and determination‚ we stretched ourselves. One thing I want this team to have is the courage to back themselves and not shy away. In the first innings we did that brilliantly.”

Only twice in SA’s nine Tests in India in which they have batted second have they banked a longer first innings. Though they have survived for more overs in three of their seven fourth innings in India‚ the 191 runs they scored this time is their highest total batting last.

The pitch was undeniably Indian‚ but nothing like the outrageously skewed surfaces that ambushed them in 2015.

The worst were in Mohali‚ where they batted for 107.5 overs‚ and Nagpur‚ where they stayed alive for 123.

SA stuck it out for 192.4 overs in the last Test in Delhi‚ but by then the series had been decided and the sting had been drawn from the contest. And the pitch’s character in the dead rubber was a lot closer in character to what we saw in Vizag than in Mohali or Nagpur.

Nkwe is in the job until the end of the tour‚ but he seems determined to make his tenure count.

“My biggest drive is to make a difference in human beings‚” he said. “Right now I’m in this position and I’m grateful for that.

“It’s not just about the now. It’s important that we define the character of the team in the next couple of months. We’ve got to ensure that the puzzle comes together. This is a great place to see that‚ what sort of character does the team have and what areas do we need to look at and improve.”

He wants his team to “control sessions a lot longer‚ whether with bat or ball; to be a lot smarter and innovative”.

He is keenly aware of the importance of “the mind‚ the physical aspects‚ the emotional aspects” and of “getting the guys to think a lot more sharply”.

“If we can reach the point where we’re in control of the game for 80% of the time‚ we’ll be in winning positions a lot more often‚” he said.

No-one can begrudge Nkwe the ambition of securing his position permanently. Results like Sunday’s won’t help him do that. But‚ for once‚ the angels are in the details.