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The Proteas Top Order Batrsmen

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Feb 14, 2019, 08:51

The following from News 24:-

"The good news is that Quinton de Kock seems to be increasingly answering former national captain Graeme Smith's plea for him to take bigger responsibility with the blade in the lower middle-order of the Proteas' Test team.

The negative, however, is that South Africa's top five broadly continue to underwhelm in the five-day landscape - something that noticeably impeded them again on day one of the first Test against unsung Sri Lanka at Kingsmead on Wednesday.

There is plenty of time yet for the host nation to stabilise and potentially even take decisive charge in this contest, but they are certainly on the unbudgeted back foot as we speak.

By being bundled out for an insufficient 235 in their first knock - inside 60 overs - after being asked to take first strike by the 'Lankans, there was really just further confirmation that the SA specialist batting department hardly looks made of the stuff to propel them back to No 1 in the world.

Although the Proteas lie second in the pecking order, they share a hallmark with most other challengers to India's current, fairly clear-cut ascendancy of simply looking too unreliable at the crease to warrant heading the pile.

South Africa, England, Australia ... all of them are characterised by instability and/or underachievement amidst their supposedly pivotal top fives in the order.

The Proteas were indebted on Wednesday to De Kock, operating at No 6, comfortably top-scoring with a purposeful and sometimes typically brazen 80 to carry them to something vaguely resembling a workable total.

It was an encouraging follow-up to his last Test vigil, a second-innings 129 (then from No 7) in the closing Wanderers clash with Pakistan, and suggested a mounting level of maturity.

The SA top order was all too quickly reduced to tatters at 17 for three - good starts have become elusive, often causing a domino effect - although the home cause was dealt a cruel hand with the rotten luck that accounted for both Faf du Plessis and Temba Bavuma when they looked promisingly like righting the ship.

The captain got one of those irksome leg-side feathers to a delivery that hardly deserved a wicket, while Bavuma, who had looked the most technically and mentally at ease of all the specialist batsmen en route to 47, was run out at the non-striker's end by less than an inch after a De Kock drive deflected off the bowler's foot and onto the stumps with the little scrapper scrambling unsuccessfully to get back to safety.

Yet for all that, statistical evidence uncomfortably mounts to suggest that the Proteas may soon need to contemplate some corrective surgery (or read: changes) in their supposedly cream batting slots.

It is true that they have played quite a lot of home Test activity this season on overly challenging, often untrustworthy pitches, but Wednesday's could more accurately be described as reasonably helpful (in the first half of the day, especially) to seam bowling: not much more than that.

A trend only balloons, statistically, in demonstrating that heavy scoring, and more particularly the amassing of centuries, has not been happening to anything like desired levels in Test cricket for close to a year by South Africa.

Certainly consistency has gone AWOL among most Proteas batsmen in the period since the highly satisfying 3-1 home Test series conquest of Australia at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Between the top five being employed in the current Test against Sri Lanka, there has been a flimsy, lone three-figure score by a South African in the period spanning the series in Sri Lanka, the just-completed three-Test home one against Pakistan, and now the first Proteas innings of the short, present series. It was Du Plessis' first-knock 103 in the Newlands Test against the Pakistanis.

Bavuma apart (as he has stayed more or less in line with his mid-thirties overall Test average and often looked better recently than his returns have shown), the South African front five have been collectively marked by declining figures in the five-day landscape.

During the period in question, for example, now seasoned opener Dean Elgar has had a particularly tough time of it, notching only 175 runs from 11 innings since the mid-July first Test against the Lankans at Galle at an average of 17.50.

Partner Aiden Markram hasn't been significantly better in the spell, producing 252 runs at 25.20.

Meanwhile the gradual slip from once lofty terrain of veteran Hashim Amla also stubbornly continues: he has made just over 250 runs himself, going back to Galle, at 28.00 and his last century was all of 27 innings ago - against Bangladesh at Bloemfontein in October 2017.

This is currently his longest career trot without one.

Bavuma has been the most solid-performing of the five, amassing 312 runs at 34.66, although he is going to have to start reaching three figures more regularly if he aspires to regular stationing at blue-chip No 4: his poignant one and only Test ton, against England at Newlands, is now 48 innings ago.

Du Plessis? His 246 runs stretching back to Galle similarly come at a less than wow-inducing 30.75, significantly below his career average of a touch under 42.

Mediocrity, at best, is a worryingly well-developed hallmark among the Proteas' intended premier batsmen, and the national selectors and coaches should be starting to get restless about it.

They need to see certain performance curves switching directions for northward, and ideally sooner rather than later "

I have recently expressed  serious reservations about some players in the Proteas and in this regard I think that my points have been proven in the above article.

The problem is that there are other factors why I think that changes must be made asap and continuation of reputation players must need urgent attacks:-

*     Elgar is becoming a serious problem.   He has a steel will - but a terrible technique which is being utilized by opposing bowlers to get rid of him.   His average of just over 17 in his last few tests as mentioned in the article is a serious problem.   

*    Amla is indeed a problem.   There are definitely eye-hand co-ordination problems and he is at an age where those problems will only get worse.   There are no chance that he can be used for much longer and it would be advisable to start making changes sooner rather than later.

*    Markhram is too good a player to be discounted based on a slump in batting at so early an age in his career.   He is at thiss tage the best fielder in the team anyway.

My own idea is to change the scenario and bring in Van der Dussen to open as lefthander - in other words to replace Elgar with him.   I do think that Markram should bat at 3 - not as an opener, but that leaves the team with another problem as to opening of the batting.

The replacement of Amla would be a problem - but myself I would bring in Hamza.   He is inexperienced having only played in one test and made 40 runs in his first innings and a duck in the second.   I would say that he is a longer term prospect and would replace Amla with him.   He has all the prospects of improving and beside from being a good fielder he is also a leg-spinner.

I would in the next test said that Amla and Elgar are being rested and that they would be replaced by Van der Dussen and Hamza.   The latter two cannot be worse than what Elgar and Amla is producing.  


Feb 14, 2019, 17:21

So what else happened in the second innings of the Proteas?   The following total runs wa smade by the top three batters in both innings combined:-

Amla        -     19

Elgar        -      35

Markram  -       39

Bavuma   -       50

Du Plessis  -     60   

De Kock    -      95   

I think that says it all, but another interesting fact is that in the second innings relating to facing of balls is as follows

Amla          -       35   making  16 runs

Elgar          -       78   making 35 runs

Markram   -        31   making  28 runs

Bavuma    -        16   making    3 runs

Du Plessis  -       54   making   25 runs    -    still batting

De Kock     -       15  making   15 runs    -    still batting

Amla was fiddling around and could not hit anything of consequence.   

I think the time is now to get Amla and Elgar rested for the next game and forget about Amla in the WC squad, 

And the orc's  constant attacks on De Kock should stop.

Feb 15, 2019, 08:30

I would also like to point out to the orc the combined info on the two innings combined of the top order players for the test thus far:-

Markram  -  39 runs from 58 balls   -    4,03 rpo

Elgar        -   35 runs from 82 balls   -    2,56 rpo

Amla        -   19 runs  from 46 balls  -    2,47 rpo

The great Amla was famous for scoring at strike and run rates below par - but he in fact did score massive runs in the process.    His particulars were as follows:-

Strike rate in tests      :     45,97       -   rpo   2,76

Strike rate in ODI's    :     72,89       -  rpo    4,37

Although strike rates in tests are routinely low fact is that unless you have a player like Kallis who occupied the crease for many long spells and score top runs  in the process the rpo's of Elgar and Amla was ridiculously low in this test and they did not produe enough runs,     Kallis was a top class bowler and slip fielder as well.   Elgar and Amla has shown serious deficiencies in fielding and they cannot bowl to save their lives.

After repeated failures Elgar was left out from the ODI squad - but Amla this year in ODI's was NO better than Elgar was when he was sent packing from the ODI squad.    This is a WC year and ODI strike rate figures are important and any rate as low as Amla's - coupled to his fielding deficiencies - would destroy the success chances of the Proteas.         

Interesting to note that up to about 2000- the rpo requirement in ODI's was routinely between 4 and 5,5 rpo.    Since 2000 the required rpo rate has increased drastically and it is at present routinely between 5,5 and 7 rpo.   In his best effort this year Amla was scoring at 5,2 rpo - which in the present environment is inadequate,   

Amla is a great player player who reached his sell-by date in 2018 and is just getting way past it this year,    

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