'Overawed' South African attack on recovery road
The failure of South Africa's bowlers at Lord's may have taken as much print space as the pre-series hype, but Vincent Barnes, the assistant coach, is confident they will bounce back to take 20 wickets in the second Test at Headingley.
Although disappointed, Barnes said the media hype could be one of the reasons for the collective failure of his attack - Makhaya Ntini went wicketless for 130, Dale Steyn managed 1 for 117, Paul Harris 3 for 129 and Morne Morkel was the pick of the lot with 4 for 121. "It was a combination of things," Barnes told Independent Online, "although I don't want to make excuses for what happened.
"We have a young attack and it was a huge occasion for them as they were playing their first game at Lord's. There's no doubt that they were overawed," he said. "There was also a lot of hype in the media about the South Africans having the fastest attack since the West Indies in the 1980s and the guys started to believe it. We were also unable to get onto the field [because of the weather] and couldn't get a feel of the ground, and in particular the slope."
Barnes said his bowlers are working on getting back to their best. "We reminded them that they lost their game plan," he said. "Bowling is all about patience, pressure and operating in partnerships. The guys just didn't apply their skills."
In England's innings of 593 for 8, only 74% of the deliveries bowled by the South Africans pitched on a good line (around middle and off, or just outside off). In contrast, England's bowlers hit the right line 85% of the time. The South African attack also struggled with their length, and it was left to the batsmen to salvage the draw by batting out the last two days.
"All the bowlers have a strong feeling that they've let the team down, and they're desperate to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
Meanwhile, the team management is working behind the scenes to pep up their bowlers. According to SuperSport, Jeremy Snape, who has joined as the team's performance coach, told the bowlers, "I want you to be at your best; not at your fastest or at your most hostile, but at your best."
Barnes also revealed how he was working with the bowlers. "I've done technical work with the guys and a lot of video analysis," he said. "I've sat down with the bowlers individually, for two hours each, and shown them examples of what they can do when they were bowling well.
"I showed Dale Steyn his bowling at Newlands in the New Year Test against West Indies when he was bowling at 150kph and swinging it big, and one of his best spells at Chennai against India when he took four for 10 in eight overs with the old ball.
"Makhaya has tended in the past to make slow starts to series," he said, a fact which is borne out by stats - Ntini averages 33.52 in the first Tests of series, but improves to 22.96 in second Tests. "We worked hard to get his intensity up, so that he knew his first ball had to be his best ball. But it didn't happen. Nevertheless, we are confident he will get better." The second Test starts on July 18.