South Africa’s fragile top six and lack of runs at test level was exposed as England won a bowler-dominated three-match series 2-1 on Monday, leaving touring captain Dean Elgar with much to ponder ahead of their next five-day assignment in Australia.
South Africa made 326 in their only innings at Lord’s in the first test, but did not manage a score over 179 in their next four visits to the crease as Elgar conceded their brittle middle order is letting the side down. They used every batter in their extended tour-party in the series, but only Sarel Erwee managed a single half-century. “I always bank on experience and we don’t have that at test level,” Elgar told reporters. “The next best thing is who do we have with experience in first class cricket back home? Is that the right solution, we don’t know yet.
“We have a few months before our next series (in Australia starting on Dec 17) but we only have a handful of four-day games before then.” It is a far cry from when the Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers used to dominate bowling attacks home and away as South Africa rose to number one in the test rankings.
“The new players have had to learn in the toughest format with not a lot of experience around them, which is something we were always aware of because of the amount of guys we had retire back-to-back,” Elgar said. South Africa do have Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen on the injury list and they are likely to return for the Australia series, but such is the team’s predicament there could be as many as five places in the top six currently up for grabs.
“It is about getting runs, that’s our currency as batsmen,” Elgar says. “It’s tough when the guys are not getting numbers on the board for you. Sooner or later you have to look elsewhere.”
Elgar would not be drawn on England’s ‘Bazball’ attacking style of play, but felt the home side used controlled aggression in the series.
“I’m not speaking about that word,” he said. “I didn’t think they played ultra-aggressive cricket, just a really good tempo, which is something you can manage and control when you are ahead in the game. “I didn’t see the ‘B-word’ at all, I just thought they controlled it well.”