Pakistan v South Africa November 16, 2013

Batsmen stand up as SA rise


Legend has it that after Australia piled on 434 runs against South Africa at the Wanderers in March 2006, Jacques Kallis tried to lighten the mood with a joke at the dinner break. "Well," he said, "now that the bowlers have done their job, I guess it's up to the batsmen to do theirs."

There are contrasting reports about who laughed and who growled in response but it's an observation that rung true for South Africa's line-up on their trip to the UAE. After the first two ODIs, in which they bowled Pakistan out for 182 and 209, the bowlers, sans Dale Steyn, were doing their job just fine.

The batsmen had been shot out for 183 and 143 and were not doing theirs. With Gary Kirsten as their consultant they had "a few hard one-on-ones", as AB de Villiers put it, to lay bare what was going wrong and what they needed to do to fix it.

"We realised we were in trouble as a batting unit. And a few heads were going to roll if we didn't get it right," de Villiers said at the team's arrival in Johannesburg on Saturday. "We decided to put our hands up and get a couple of good innings as a batting group. It was about taking responsibility and changing our mental approach. We were not playing up to standard and we had to force ourselves to believe we were good enough."

Instead of focus on anything technical - South Africa were playing Pakistan's spinners a lot better than they had Sri Lanka's in August - they needed a change in the way they were thinking. As soon as the switch flipped, improvement were clear.

In the next match, South Africa posted their first total over 250 since June's Champions Trophy and they had two individual half-centuries, one from a struggling Faf du Plessis, who finally found form. Having gone 11 ODI innings without raising his bat, du Plessis was starting to feel the heat. "It was tough to go through all that. It was a different experience for me and one I took a bit personally," he admitted. "But I learned a lot and I started feeling better with the batting. It was just time. I knew runs were around the corner."

In the game that followed, South Africa recorded their first century of the tour, when young Quinton de Kock made good on the promise he showed at domestic level. After looking particularly susceptible to turning tracks and slow bowling in Sri Lanka, de Kock had taken it on himself to train even harder with his franchise coach Geoff Toyana. His technique is tighter and his talent came through.

He has now claimed a spot in South Africa's limited-overs teams, which will give the selectors an interesting conundrum at the top of the order in ODIs, when Graeme Smith returns to fitness, and in T20s, with Henry Davids also pushing for a place.

"Everybody knows Quinton is a seriously talented player," Domingo said. "He obviously had issues in Sri Lanka against spinners, where he was getting his left leg too far across the crease. But he's worked on that. I am very impressed with his work ethic. Some people may perceive him as wild young thing but he has got a good work ethic."

In the final game, de Villiers scored a hundred that can be used as a prototype for pacing an innings. His measured start gave him the perfect launchpad to accelerate later on. South Africa won all three of those matches and showed their 50-over cricket is back on track. "The Test side's success at number one may have caused the one-day side to get less love and less attention. We are trying to rectify that," Domingo said. "The whole group have all stepped up and put in big performances."

Because they did it throughout the series, the bowlers got very little mention but it was through them that South Africa took a lead in the Twenty20 rubber. After their destructive showing in the first match, in which they restricted Pakistan to 98 for 9, Mohammad Hafeez's men struggled to come back, even two days later when they collapsed again.

With a range of quicks to choose from, South Africa's T20 plans for next year's WorldT20 are going well. The only thing they may hope for is a more competitive showing from Pakistan in the immediate return series, which begins on Wednesday. Even if they don't get it, Domingo said South Africa will concentrate on climbing the ladder and building their own self-belief.

"Confidence is a massively important thing and so you can never take things for granted," he said. "We know Pakistan will be hurting and we expect them to come fighting. We are still a work in progress." That they have progressed so far will leave Kallis, who could return for the ODIs against Pakistan, pleased because the batsmen are doing their job too.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on November 18, 2013, 22:52 GMT

    @ joe232. Kallis may or may not bring SA more ICC trophies, but he is the Saffa who brought home ICC silverware, the 1st Champions trophy. A knockout only competition, in the quarters SA beat Eng by 6 wickets (20 balls remaining,) Kallis' 3/48 the best match figs. In the semis, SA beat Sri Lanka by 92 runs, Kallis 113*, & in the final beat the Windies by 4 wickets (18 balls remaining,) Kallis 5/30. Kallis won 2 MoM & the Player of the Series award, & remains the only player to score a century & take a five-for in ANY Champions Trophy tournament. In their 1st, & ONLY match, Aus were rolled by India.

    Anyone can sit at home, a keyboard warrior only, disparaging Kallis & SA. Precious few become cricket legends. Our opinions count for nothing: already history records him as the greatest all-rounder since Sobers. Ever more records will come his way.

    Snipe away, Joe. He is a legend: you are but an anonymous name. Kallis has the last laugh anyway: SA are #1 as Aus circle the drain. He won!

  • David on November 18, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    Kallis' world cup record as published by cricinfo

    "Kallis is the most experienced South African player in terms of World Cups, having been to four. He was a relative newcomer in 1996, scoring 63 runs and bowling 13 overs without taking a wicket; 2003 yielded exactly the same number of runs for Kallis, 63 in four innings, and he claimed three wickets.

    Both tournaments where South Africa reached the semi-finals (1999 and 2007) were fruitful for Kallis. He scored 363 runs in eight innings in 1999, including four half centuries. He also took eight wickets with a best return of 3/36 against Sri Lanka. In 2007, Kallis scored 485 runs in nine innings to end as the tournaments fifth highest run scorer. His overall record is exceptional - he has scored 923 runs at an average of 51.27 and taken 16 wickets."

    When Kallis is in form, SA advances - at least to the semis: When Kallis is not in form, SA goes nowhere. CLEARLY, as goes Kallis, so goes the team!

  • Paul on November 17, 2013, 23:38 GMT

    2nd_slip, I like the look of your side, a positive step. But surely there must be a place for Vernon Philander who is both miserly and takes wickets. If Vern's committed to ODI stuff, he needs to be in our team, probably at the expense of Morkel, perhaps Lopsy.

  • Ali on November 17, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    So Kallis is back. Missed some tough tours such as CT in Eng, Tour of SL, ODI´s vs Pak and now ready for his soft runs and wickets against a very week pakistan in home condition. Man please play 4 ur team as well. Btw In that 434 run chase Kallis was the only person who made sure that South Africa dont win.

  • Blessing on November 17, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    de Kock, Davids, Amla, de Villiers, Duminy, Miller, Parnell, Morkel, Steyn, Lospy, Tahir is the best ODI line up. Then swaping Duminy for Faf makes the best T20 line up. As legendary as Greame and JH Kallis are I think its about time they moved on now and stick to test cricket where they are the best in the would in their respective roles at the moment.

  • joe on November 17, 2013, 7:08 GMT

    @Shahed enchantador, well he only plays against Ind, @75 is his avg against u guys.

  • NXT on November 17, 2013, 3:44 GMT

    1/2 As i said in the other note, Smith shouldn't be drafted to ODI squad again, he is a fantastic captain, but he can't accelerate run rate as once he was, Kallis is always good nothing to argue there. And management must find a way between tsotsobe and philander. I knw tsotsobe is a fine bowler. but he isn't consistent in all the matches, as looking at the test records it's better to pick philander ahead of him. But Domingo can't pick a squad just based on results against PAK. They are really poor at the moment. It's best to select from India ODIs. Actually i'm always not impressed with Indians, perhaps based on their attitude barring Dhoni. But you can't simply ignore their current performances in ODI. Just Wow! World know what poor bowling lineup they have. But their batting lineup isn't. As like them SA just need aggressiveness in their batting. It's all about the start. Smith can't do that anymore at the top in powerplays. De Cock and Amla is the best choice.

  • Paul on November 16, 2013, 23:28 GMT

    If that quote at the beginning of the piece is correct, it's a bit rich coming from Kallis as he bowled six overs in that match and went for 70, without taking a wicket. By far the most expensive of the bowlers. On Smith, he's a passenger at limited overs cricket, yesterday's man. And unlike de Kock, who we're told has worked on his technique and largely corrected his weaknesses, Smith has done nothing to improve his flawed technique. He still displays all the weaknesses he had when he first arrived on the scene and can probably thank his fighting spirit and a very good eye for his success.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    kallis a true legend..bats..bowls..fields... man am a huge fan of him or wat...jus dnt play well against india n i will keep admiing u

  • Johan on November 16, 2013, 15:30 GMT

    The legend is that Kallis broke the somber mood in the dressing room by saying, "Boys, this is a 450 pitch, so they're a few runs short" or something to that effect. I've never heard the line quoted at the beginning of this story.

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