England coach Chris Silverwood in Benoni, December 16 2019. Picture: STU FORSTER/GETTY IMAGES
England coach Chris Silverwood in Benoni, December 16 2019. Picture: STU FORSTER/GETTY IMAGES

The messy state of SA cricket isn’t of much concern to England coach Chris Silverwood. However‚ he expects the wounded hosts to be a far more dangerous opponent than people realise.

They will be engaged in a two-day game against a Cricket SA (CSA) Invitational 11 at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Tuesday and Wednesday to iron out any kinks before the weekend’s three-day game against SA A at the same venue.

SA have a new coaching structure led by team director and former long-time wicketkeeper Mark Boucher‚ but they’re on a dire run of five consecutive Test losses dating back to February, when they lost 2-0 at home to Sri Lanka. In October they were soundly trounced 3-0 by Virat Kohli’s rampant Indian team‚ with two of those losses being by an innings.

Silverwood said they will have to see what kind of shape the SA Test side will be in‚ but they won’t underestimate them.

“We’ll find out when we get into the first Test.

“I believe there’s a round of first-class cricket the lads will be involved in.

“However‚ it’s more about concentrating on ourselves‚ getting our things into order and making sure we’re in the best possible position when the first Test arrives‚” Silverwood said.

“Complacency is one thing we don’t have and I expect SA to come out hard‚ and they’re a proud nation. We expect them to come back hard in all departments and they will be hungry.”

Four of Silverwood’s six Tests came against SA during the 1999/2000 tour. That remains the last time England lost a series in SA. 

Silverwood came up against Boucher in those games‚ one of them being the last one of the millennium in 1999 at Kingsmead, where Boucher’s 108 played second fiddle to Gary Kirsten’s monumental 275.

Silverwood expects SA to be as competitive as Boucher was.

“He was a fine player and I’m looking forward to what will be a hard-fought contest. SA is a proud nation and we’ve seen that in many sports and it’s going to be a hard-fought contest‚” Silverwood said.

England’s Test side is as much of a work in progress as SA’s‚ something Silverwood readily admitted. They were nearly upset by Ireland in a one-off Test at Lord’s before their batting malfunctioned repeatedly in the drawn Ashes series against Australia. In their recent series against New Zealand‚ they came alive in dribs and drabs‚ but couldn’t find the consistent performance to get a share of the series.

“The one thing we really want to drive forward is the Test team and we’ll put things in place that will help us do that. The New Zealand tour was part and parcel of that and we switched up the batting line-up and looked at new ways of doing things‚” Silverwood said.

“It’s not reinventing the wheel by a long shot‚ but New Zealand was a great learning curve for us and we’ll look to keep pushing on from there. The challenge is getting those first-innings runs. And as soon as we do that‚ we’ll be very hard to beat.”