South Africa making a slow start to a Test series has almost become an institution now, so it was no surprise that Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said on Thursday that he expected his team to rectify much of what went wrong in the first Test against Sri Lanka in the second match starting in Colombo on Friday.
Du Plessis confirmed that the origins of their massive defeat lay in their batting, but said their woes in Galle were certainly not down to a lack of belief, almost the opposite in fact.
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“Unfortunately this team sometimes starts slowly but then makes better decisions. We just didn’t trust our defence enough, which is an important part of Test cricket, even though at times you have to be positive and try and put the spinners under pressure. There was a carelessness in our batting, especially in the second innings.
“That doesn’t belong in Test cricket. You have to find a way to score runs and it’s always good to have two or three options, but you have to concentrate on scoring a hundred off 180 balls not seventy. If you study how Dimuth Karunaratne [158* & 60] played, you see he didn’t take risks, he didn’t hit the ball in the air until he had 80-odd, but he played very well,” Du Plessis said on Thursday.
The skipper said the Proteas might even profit from changing the whole basic set-up of their team. In Galle they went with six specialist batsmen, two spinners and three pacemen, but Du Plessis said they are toying with the idea of playing an extra batsman at the Sinhalese Sports Club and also choosing just one frontline spinner.
“We’re still deciding on the dynamics of the team before finalising the XI. The pitch does look pretty dry, but sometimes the seamers do get assistance here. We’ll probably play the extra batsman because that is the concern. We expect spin to play a big part again and we don’t expect the ball to reverse.
“But it would be great if it did because that would assist our pacemen. We have a real danger weapon with reverse if we don’t have to bowl with a soft, wet ball all the time. Then it comes down to choosing between two spinners or the third seamer. Dale Steyn just gets better and better the more he plays though.
“The biggest thing was that Dale got through the Test match, that’s a massive positive and I expect big things from him in the second Test. He was very disappointed not to be able to bowl Sri Lanka out in Galle, so he’s very hungry for wickets,” Du Plessis said of the great paceman who is tied with Shaun Pollock at the top of the leading Test wicket-takers’ list for South Africa.