'Pulling out of the tour is a disaster' - Arthur
Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, admitted that the tour of Sri Lanka was a disappointing one for the team, having lost the opportunity to square the two-Test series and missing out on valuable match practice in the shorter version of the game.
Arthur said that the players were disappointed not to complete the tour, as the tri-series would have been an ideal warm-up for the Champions Trophy in India in October. "We could see the security situation was not great, but we were really looking forward to playing," he said on Saturday after the team arrived home, having pulled out of the three-nation Unitech Cup which also included India. "The guys were really 'amped' up for the series. It was a great opportunity for some of the younger players to stake a claim for a place in the squad for the Champions Trophy and the World Cup.
"From a cricketing point of view, pulling out of the tour is a disaster. We need match practice. We will have to ask Cricket South Africa to see if they can schedule some matches for us."
South Africa pulled out of the one-day tri-series that was to follow the Test series citing security concerns after a bomb blast near the team hotel in the morning of their opening match against Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka Cricket promised extra security for the teams, the South Africans decided to withdraw after a report from an independent security consultant to Cricket South Africa found the current risk to the team to be at an "unacceptable level".
"Missed opportunities cost us the second Test," Arthur said, reflecting on the Test series. South Africa lost the first Test by an innings but fought back in the second, losing narrowly by one wicket. "We should have wrapped it up, and we didn't," he said.
Despite the defeat, Arthur stated that there were a few positives gained from the series, given that the team was without senior players like Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. "Our guys played (Muttiah) Muralitharan very well," he said. "Sure, he took 22 wickets, but he bowled more than half the overs. He told us that we had played him better than any other international side in Sri Lanka. He said that he normally took 30 overs to take five wickets, but with us, he needed 55. We were without some of our key players, but everybody in the team put their hand up and took responsibility."
South Africa have agreed to host Zimbabwe for two one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match in mid-September.