Greens learn a rock-hard cricket lesson

Henry

One knew in advance that the Protea tour group in New Zealand would struggle. After all, the team is loaded with new faces, while the A team players – if you like – stay at home to concentrate on their SA20 duties.

But when South Africa lost the first Test at the Bay Oval by 281 runs, it still hurt.

It was not fun to see Kane Williamson and Rachin Ravindra chasing the Protea fielders left and right and wreaking havoc among the struggling bowlers.

Things didn’t go much better with the bat either.

On a court surface – without many cracks and potholes – the South Africans played clay against Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner.

David Bedingham scored the visitors’ only fifty, while captain Niel Brand took at least eight wickets in the showdown.

Other than that, there weren’t many other highlights.

According to coach Shukri Conrad, the defeat in the first test is anything but “okay”.

“If it was a T20 match, you know that one good performance can win you the game. In Test cricket, it’s five days of sustained pressure and tries. You can’t afford not to be at your best against a team like New Zealand,” said Conrad.

For some players it must also have been a wake-up call: a Test is not at all comparable to a local red-ball cricket match and their self-confidence must have taken a definite hit.

South Africa missed a few catches and you absolutely cannot afford that – especially not when Williamson and Ravindra make you pay for the blunders.

According to Brand – who in his first test for the Proteas also had to take the test reins – the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.

“We gave the New Zealanders chances and maybe things could have turned out differently. Our patience was tested on the pitch – just when the men got going, they lost their wickets. However, we want to improve and we have been brought up for the next Test,” promised the opening batsman.

Although most of the players in the touring group have a lot of experience on the local cricket stage, it was clear that they are still Test cricket rookies.

“There is a big gap worldwide, not just in South Africa, between local cricket and Test cricket. It’s a case of swim or sink for the players, Conrad said.

Protea tour group in New Zealand: Neil Brand (captain), David Bedingham, Ruan de Swardt, Clyde Fortuin, Tshepo Moreki, Mihlali Mpongwana, Duanne Olivier, Dane Paterson, Keegan Petersen, Dane Piedt, Raynard van Tonder, Shaun von Berg, Khaya Zondo and Zubayr Hamza.