The Hard Taskmaster – SA v PAK, 2nd Test

I am a passionate supporter of South African cricket. I prefer to be positive, it’s hard not to be with the team we have at the moment, but there is always room for improvement.

South Africa beat Pakistan in the second Test at Newlands by four wickets. The victory was hard-fought and well-earned by a very good team playing well. But it wasn’t perfect.

Smith, Kallis and du Plessis against Ajmal

“Each batsman has his own way of playing Ajmal,” is the line trotted out in interview after interview. In that case, Smith, Kallis and du Plessis would do well to review their methods, because they’re not working. Ajmal dismissed them each in each innings at Newlands.

Smith got out sweeping twice. To get out in this way, Smith isn’t being beaten off the pitch, he’s being beaten in the flight and by Ajmal’s control of length and pace. The solution: either sweep better or stop sweeping.

SmithLBW

Kallis was trapped LBW twice. This method of trying to move across outside off stump and working the ball to leg was successful against Graeme Swann, but it’s not working against Ajmal. Here’s why:

  • Swann likes an attacking line outside off stump, ripping the ball in to hit the top of it. This allows Kallis to get outside the off stump line – safe from an LBW decision – and work the ball to leg.
  • Ajmal prefers a straighter line, with less spin and more variation of length and pace. This makes it more difficult for Kallis to get safely outside off stump and makes it easer for the umpire and DRS to agree with Ajmal’s constant appeals for leg before.

The solution: don’t move as far across to off and play with a straighter bat through mid-wicket instead of square leg.

du Plessis isn’t reading Ajmal’s variations. And to an extent that’s fair enough because he’s a fine bowler and Faf is new to this level of expertise. The solution: watch the videos, then watch them again.

Ajmal

Dean Elgar’s right leg

Left-handed batsmen play the cover drive better. You can put that down to a romantic, selective memory if you like, but it’s true. Except Dean Elgar.

There’s not getting your foot to the ball – think Klusener or RG Pollock – and then there’s not getting your foot to the ball – think Curtly Ambrose. Elgar doesn’t look much like a 6’7 West Indian fast bowler, except when he’s playing a cover drive.

deancurtly

The way Elgar got out in the first innings, throwing his right leg to mid-wicket and driving to slip, was embarrassing. But he does it all the time, and it’s going to start costing him his wicket more and more.

Robin Peterson’s bowling in the first innings

I have doubted Robin Peterson in the past, and I’m happy for him to continue to prove me wrong. But he was made to look ordinary in the first innings, mainly by Younis and Shafiq.

1st innings |   23.2 – 0 – 94 – 2
2nd innings |   29 – 8 – 73 – 3

Peterson showed greater control and was actually a threat in the second innings – mainly by bowling over the wicket, into the foot-holes and not to Younis – but it’d be nice if he could give Graeme Smith the control he craves in the first innings as well.

Morné Morkel, and other injuries

I’ve worried before that certain members of this side are being held together by angels and Elastoplast tape. Philander and Kallis have missed games with niggles, de Villiers’ back is a constant concern, even Petersen and Amla have been nursing injuries recently.

There is depth in the squad to back up this outstanding 1st XI, but it’d be a shame to be careless with the players’ fitness.

In conclusion

Everyone seems to agree this Test was won fairly comfortably in the end. Even though the Proteas were pushed at times, everything was under control and somebody was always going to step up when required to swing the match the green and gold way.

I’m not as easily convinced, but it’s hard to argue. And as long as perfection is out there, it’s worth aiming for.

RobbieP

All photos belong to Getty Images or AFP, via Cricinfo.

Also by The Hard Taskmaster

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One response to “The Hard Taskmaster – SA v PAK, 2nd Test

  1. Aah, yes. Being positive when the team is on top is easy. I’m an Aussie, I know this well. I live in England, I have much experience of the “sing when you’re winning” culture that is England cricket fandom. But it’s all good. Why not enjoy it while it lasts?

    I like the Angels and Elastoplast line 🙂

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