Proteas great Mark Boucher knows it is a tough business batting in Sri Lanka but he believes the South African batsmen approached the first Test in Galle in the wrong manner, leading to their worst batting performance (126 & 73) since being bowled out for 36 and 45 by Australia in Melbourne in 1932.
“It was a disappointing batting performance to be honest, they weren’t able to fight out the tough moments and there were a few poor shots. I’m all for positivity but they got the balance wrong, it’s quite simple. You can be positive in your defence as well and the batsmen needed to be smarter, to hit the balls in the areas of least risk, but that’s the area where we stumbled.
“You need calculated positivity, not running down the pitch and trying to hit over midwicket against the turn. The batsmen need to be positive in their own game-plans and trust their defence more. The more you stay at the crease over there, the easier it gets. You can’t face a few balls and then play a rash shot, they need to toughen up a bit and show more skill and patience,” Boucher, who scored four half-centuries in seven Tests in Sri Lanka, said.
The Proteas were happy to report on Wednesday that spinner Tabraiz Shamsi has returned to the camp after a family bereavement and is available for the second Test, which starts in Colombo on Friday.
But Boucher is not convinced South Africa will definitely play both the wrist-spinner and left-arm orthodox Keshav Maharaj.
“By all accounts it didn’t really turn square in Galle and it’s not as if they were facing Muralitharan, with respect. But Colombo usually has a lot more pace and bounce, even though Sri Lanka will try and keep the pitch as dry as possible. But the Proteas might not decide they need the second spinner, maybe they pick an extra seamer.
“The problem with choosing an extra batsman is that you don’t want to lose a game and then change your whole set-up even if you’ve been bowled out for nothing. You have to be careful because the batsmen were probably just undercooked. I would say the top six must still take responsibility, they are good players, they just need to apply themselves and toughen up,” Boucher said.