Donald leaves SA team on UAE tour
South Africa's bowlers will have to find their rhythm without bowling coach Allan Donald, who has returned home from the tour of the UAE.
Donald, who was appointed bowling coach in June 2011, left the camp on an "extended leave of absence" due to personal reasons, and team manager Mohammad Moosajee said they are "not sure when he will return." Vincent Barnes, the former bowling coach who is now in charge of Cricket South Africa's high-performance programme and is also a national selector, will take over.
Barnes worked with the national team for a lengthy period under Mickey Arthur and was Corrie van Zyl's assistant before Gary Kirsten took over. He was credited with playing a big role in the development of the current attack, having overseen Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander's formative years in international cricket.
His approach is slightly different to Donald's, whose emphasis is on aggression, but head coach Russell Domingo said there would be no changes to South Africa's strategy. "Vincent is just standing in to support the bowlers. He will continue on the work Allan has been doing," he said
That may mean the ineffective short-ball tactic will still be used, especially as Domingo explained it is ingrained in the country's style of play: "South African cricket has been played a certain way. We just need to implement our plans better."
Domingo may simply be saying that to throw Pakistan off track because South Africa's strategy was obviously adjusted during Pakistan's second innings when the visitors pitched it up and claimed three quick wickets. Graeme Smith called them "bittersweet" scalps, which showed South Africa what they could have done had they been on the mark in the first innings.
Domingo said the whole squad shared that sentiment. "There was a sense, leaving the field after having lost the match, that if we just had 120 or 130 runs more, we could have had a real sniff," he said. "We possibly sowed some seeds of doubt and showed what we are capable of with the new ball."
With the spotlight on South Africa's bowling, it's easy to forget that their batsmen were the real culprits in Abu Dhabi. Domingo, for one, has not put that to the back of his mind. "If you look at stats here, the first innings sets the game up and we didn't have a good enough score," he said. "It's ultimately the batters that let us down on day one."
South Africa were 245 for 8 overnight, with 118 of those runs belonging to Hashim Amla and there is still a chance he will miss the second Test. Amla is still in Durban, awaiting the birth of his second child. As of Sunday afternoon, there was no news from Amla's side although South Africa remain hopeful he will be able to join them by Tuesday. "I hope Hashim's wife gives birth right now," Domingo said. "He is a great player to have around, not just as a player but also as a personality but he needs to be with his wife right now."
With Amla's responsibilities elsewhere, South Africa have to prepare for a match as though they will go into it without him. Dean Elgar is likely to slot into his place, adding inexperience to the challenges South Africa will face. For Domingo, that will complete a tough introduction to international coaching. He lost his first ODI series in charge and needs the team to win in Dubai to avoid the same happening to his Test career.
He admitted it has been difficult, but accepted this as the fate of someone in his profession. "It's never ideal to start your Test coaching career with a loss but that's what's happened. It's easy to win, win, win and feel good about it but these are the challenges you go through as a coach," Domingo said.
"It's a big challenge for me to get things going again and regain confidence within the team. But I've got no doubt we can and will do that. We've had tough times in the past. I remember the first day at the Oval against England and we really came back. Or the Test against Australia in Adelaide where we hung in there. This side has lot of character, a lot of talent and a lot of class."
The last time South Africa were without Donald as their bowling coach was in the third Test against New Zealand in Wellington in 2012, when Donald returned home in order to get a break before the IPL, where he was with the Pune Warriors. South Africa drew that Test with Morne Morkel the only bowler to pick up wickets on the final day.
Gary Kirsten, who was the coach at the time, dismissed all suggestions that Donald's departure had impacted the attack. Domingo will hope Kirsten was right and, if he wasn't, that Barnes can fill the gap for what is a must-win game for South Africa.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent