Durban – It had been hoped that a return to home conditions would be just that tonic that the Proteas batting lineup needed to restore some parity, and in so doing confidence – crucial for the three remaining Tests and with the world number one ranking under threat.
Only centurion Dean Elgar, the first South African batsman to carry his bat through an innings since Gary Kirsten against Pakistan in 1997, and De Villiers who got to 49 were able to provide any resistance.
Instead of Kingsmead providing the men tasked with adding runs to the cause a welcome reprieve after a tough tour to India it did the opposite and now the calls for a rethink have intensified with a number of players in the spotlight.
All of Stiaan van Zyl, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Hashim Amla, who hasn’t had the greatest of times at this ground in his career, failed as the home side were bundled out for 214 and handed control of the match to England.
Between the quartet they added just 11 to the total. Not ideal when the selectors have made an effort to shore up the batting unit by handing the wicketkeeping responsibilities to AB de Villiers.
“If I was a convenor of selectors I would have convened a meeting today. I do not think we can wait till after Cape Town,” former Test batsmen Boeta Dippenaar said here yesterday. The selectors named a 13-man squad for the first two games of the four match series.
“At this stage with Dale Steyn being injured – he pulled up with a shoulder strain and only bowled 3.5 overs yesterday – and the lack of form in the top order we are more likely to be 2-0 down by the end of the Cape Town Test and then the series is gone already,” he added.
“We do need to be pro-active.”
A look at the numbers will tell you that all four of the aforementioned batsmen have endured a torrid time in 2015. Break it down to their last 10 innings and it gets worse. Van Zyl averages just 18.5 – his century on debut against the West Indies was 11 innings ago – while Duminy is worse off at a shade over 10.
“I think we are low on confidence. I also think the selectors have also made one or two interesting calls with regards to batting people out of position, particularly Stiaan van Zyl. It’s tough on him to be batting out of position. To do that at the highest possible level is an incredible ask.
“To me the greatest concern is Amla’s form. He’s been the rock that South Africa could build their innings around and we don’t seem to have anybody at the moment fulfilling that role,”
“I think Amla is starting to struggle to distinguish between his own form and the team’s form and one is compounding the other,” Dippenaar said before touching on Du Plessis and Duminy.
“There’s serious pressure on both of them.”
Another former Protea batsman, Peter Kirsten, feels that the batting unit is especially fragile after the 3-0 series loss in India and highlighted technical aspects of Amla’s batting as sure signs of an inner struggle.
“I think there’s mental scarring from the India trip,” he said.
“Amla is a worry because technically he’s a bit sluggish with his feet, Duminy is a concern as is Faf but they’ve got to fight through it. They’ve got to toughen up and stop being so tentative.
“It’s a bit of a problem when three of your top batters are all going through it at the same time,” Kirsten said.