Mental rest for Proteas could pay off

2012-09-26 00:00

PLAYING cricket for South Africa in the Gary Kirsten era seems to be more fun than it was in the not so distant past.

A pre-season camp at a luxury golf estate, clambering about in the Alps, optional practices — and now a couple of days off at a beach resort.

So far it’s worked rather well, with the objective being to ensure the players go into each big game mentally fresh.

The beach break in Sri Lanka seemed particularly well timed, with the team having six days between the end of the group phase and the start of the business end of the ICC World Twenty20 with their first Super Eights match on Friday.

Two days in Bentota still allowed plenty of time to prepare for what could be five matches in Colombo if the Proteas win at least two of their three Super Eights games and then go on to reach the final.

The performances in the first two matches were highly impressive, with the bowlers in excellent form.

On pitches with more pace and bounce than might have been expected, Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel have been more than a handful, while Jacques Kallis has been excellent in a seam support role.

If the pitches get lower and slower from frequent use at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, the spin of Johan Botha and Robin Peterson will be crucially important.

Although the batsmen haven’t had too much of a chance to play a proper innings, with the exception of Richard Levi and Hashim Amla against Zimbabwe, the urgency in the seven-over hit-out against Sri Lanka was indicative of a team determined to take every opportunity available to them.

One player whose form is questionable is Albie Morkel, who seems to be getting by on reputation and experience, which could yet be valuable.

One aspect that possibly hasn’t attracted as much comment as it deserves has been the running between wickets. Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy, to name just three, are like lightning down the pitch and the total against Sri Lanka was several runs in credit simply because of the way the batsmen turned ones into twos.

In the matches that I have seen, no other team have run as well between the stumps as South Africa.

It may be a small detail — and in the end it is still most likely that big innings or a devastating spell of bowling will be decisive — but in a tight game those extra runs could be important.

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