That was a resounding victory in the first Test against Sri Lanka. There was a lot to be happy about, not least Vernon Philander’s first 10 wicket haul and Mark Boucher showing some fight and form with the bat
But it’s important to remember that this is a very poor Sri Lankan side, with the exception of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, and it’d be good to maintain some perspective.
So, without wanting to dampen the mood after an outstanding win, here are four areas that could be of concern.
1. Sri Lanka dropped a lot of catches
I don’t think the dropped chances would have affected the result, but it may have meant a smaller and less convincing margin of victory.
- Rudolph was dropped on 30, and went on to make 44
- Kallis was dropped on 27, and went on to make 31
- Prince was dropped on 23 and 26, and went on to make 39
This is concerning both in the sense that these players are offering chances and also that they’re not cashing in when those chances aren’t taken.
Taking a wicket off a no-ball always looks terrible, and frankly it’s unforgivable.
Morne Morkel’s problems with the popping crease are well known, and need to be addressed, but Wunderkind Vernon Philander is also handing out freebies.
Morkel and Philander bowled three no-balls each in the first innings, and four and five respectively in the second. In all, South Africa gave away 16 free runs and balls (and one wicket) during the match.
3. Kallis getting hit in the head
The simple fact is that Jacques Kallis has looked uncertain against short-pitched, fast bowling recently. First Pat Cummins roughed him up, and then Dilhara Fernando pinged him in the ear.
He’s looked in good form so far this summer, and you still wouldn’t bet against big runs every time he takes guard, but suddenly opposition teams have a plan, and I’m a little nervous about how often it seems to be working.
4. Unsure of their places
The Test side has been a largely settled unit these past few years, but all of a sudden it feels like players are uncertain of their spots and it could be affecting their confidence and performance.
- Jacques Rudolph has Alviro Petersen itching to get his place back
- With 3, 4 and 5 locked down for the next couple of years, Ashwell Prince knows that every top order batsman in the country is coming for his number 6 spot
- It’s starting to feel like the only thing keeping Mark Boucher in the side is the lack of an obvious replacement
- Morne Morkel suddenly has Vernon Philander stealing all the wickets and young Marchant de Lange in his rear view mirror
- Imran Tahir hasn’t been able to convince those people who call for a more conservative selection
Maybe Gary Kirsten needs to hand out some assurances, but we need these guys to be playing with confidence, free of fear, if we’re to get the best out of them.
I don’t mean to be too critical, but this South African side really has the potential to be a great and dominating one. However, for these and other reasons we’re a far way from being able to call them that.
Hopefully not too far.