Australia in South Africa 2013-14

South Africa soak in that winning feeling

There has been a noticeable spring in South Africa's step over recent days after their remarkable turnaround in fortunes

Firdose Moonda

February 26, 2014

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Smith could only fend a Mitchell Johnson short ball to the slips, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day, February 13, 2014
Russell Domingo remains unconcerned about Graeme Smith's form, especially in the glow of victory © Getty Images
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Sports teams would have us believe winning, just like eating for a chef or travelling for an airline pilot, is just part of the job. That it is the best, most exciting, most fun and most enviable part of the job is something they do not often admit, especially in the middle of a series, because it could result in them getting carried away. Finally, someone has broken the mould.

We all knew already what Russell Domingo confirmed but at least he did: nothing beats coming out on top. So, he seems to have allowed his team to bask in the glory of their St George's Park victory instead of limiting them to the dreaded task of focusing solely on the function and he joined some of the celebration himself.

"The breakfast area the day after winning a cricket game and the day after losing a cricket game is totally different," Domingo said. "No matter how you try not to emphasise the importance of winning because you want to focus on your processes, winning is very important. The general vibe around the team after a good win - there is so much more energy when compared to after a loss."

That may be why Hashim Amla was willing to go as far as announcing it was advantage South Africa heading to Newlands, why Morne Morkel was spotted strolling carefree along the Port Elizabeth beachfront the day after the triumph and why Dean Elgar had time to seek out a doppelganger on Twitter (the lookalike is a South African radio host) in the lead up to the third Test. The Australian have also taken some out - three days actually - but Domingo hinted they would used it differently, given how he explained the aftermath of a loss.

"There's a lot of tension after a loss, a lot of reflection, a lot of what ifs, should we have, could we have..." he said, which would also have explained South Africa's tension ahead of the second Test. "After a win you just really try and emphasise the good stuff and that's the feeling I get at the moment. There's a good energy around the side and guys know they have played more to their potential than in the first Test - probably not at their best but to their potential in this last Test match."

A mantra of "we can always get better," is as formulaic as sports teams trying to deflect attention of victory but for the South African team, as they stand right now, it is not far off the mark. There are areas where they need to improve ahead of the series decider and fielding is one of them. South Africa's displays in both Tests have been riddled with fumbles and dotted with dropped catches.

However, a Domingo in good spirits does not seem too worried about that. "We've generally fielded well and taken good catches. But it's like everything else in the game. If you put one or two down, there's always a little bit of anxiety around that," he said. But what if you put down seven?

That is how many South African have let slip so far, with five of them alone off David Warner. The opening batsman may not be Australia's top run-scorer in the series if it was not for those mistakes. South Africa do not currently have a fielding coach but that should not even be a factor. No one should be needed to teach international cricketers to catch. "No one does it on purpose but it's something that we are a little bit aware of and are trying to improve on," Domingo said,

He was similarly nonplussed about their use of the DRS. "It's the same thing with the referrals: if you get one or two wrong and the next one comes, you think 'Oh damn, I'd better not stuff this one up. Let's not do it.' It's a little bit of the same anxiety."

Graeme Smith has had a tough time with technology, allowing Mitchell Johnson (first Test, first innings), Peter Siddle (second Test, first innings), Nathan Lyon (second Test, first innings) and Chris Rogers (second Test, second innings) to get away when they would have been out had he called for DRS and incorrectly asking for referrals off Warner (first Test, second innings) and Rogers (second Test, first innings). He had a similar struggle with his own form with no scores over 15 so far but Domingo believes he is due.

"I am not really too concerned. Graeme's record speaks for itself. It's very seldom that he goes through a series without making a contribution - I am talking about with the bat, because he makes a massive contribution as the leader," Domingo said. "It's not something I am too fazed about. He is a quality player. He is playing well at the moment, he is looking in good touch, he has just found ways of getting out."

On his home ground, in the last Test of the summer Smith will have the perfect opportunity to turn things around and have the final say of the season. He may even get the surface he wants to do it on. Domingo said South Africa want nothing more than a "good cricket wicket," and early signs suggest Newlands will produce one.

Domingo had a brief chat with Evan Flint, the groundsman, and saw that the pitch "looks like a wicket that is ready to play on tomorrow," so Flint will "probably want to keep a bit more moisture in it." With heat and wind dominating the build-up, Flint has had the top drying out but not the whole surface, now that the gust has let up, he can bake the pitch before match day to present something everyone will be happy with.

That leaves only one person likely to receive bad news ahead of the third Test: Robin Peterson. Domingo admitted he was happy enough with the job JP Duminy did in Port Elizabeth and even though he does not have an XI yet, it seems Peterson will not find his way back in. "In South Africa, the spinner's role is very much of a holding role and I thought JP and Dean did a very good job for us in the second Test," he said.

Everyone else can simply enjoy that winning feeling.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by P0isonal on (February 28, 2014, 9:06 GMT)

World number 1 Test team had just 2 or 3 test match series!! R u top 3 wana improve ur ranking by playing more test then SAF?? Give them 5 match series against ind, aus nd england..the player of south africa can show they are the best and they are legends of the game!!

Posted by StaalBurgher on (February 27, 2014, 18:11 GMT)

@Donovan Williams - If a player is clearly more talented than another it is slavish to insist that he wait till he is 24-25. De Kock did look uncomfortable but only the coaching staff will know how far off he is. Going by looks, from a fans perspective, is not evidence of anything. If the coaches feel he won't be damaged then let him play. There is no reason to insist on some sort of seniority hierarchy, we should live in a meritocracy.

As for van Zyl, both he and de Kock should be there ahead of Alviro. So including de Kock shouldn't hold van Zyl back.

Look I won't be too bothered if they play van Zyl ahead of de Kock, but that is not the issue we are faced with. We are stuck with a situation where a mediocre player who had a good run of domestic form 2 years ago is no blocking the advancement of younger, more talented players. Up to the PE test he was ahead of Elgar as well, and depending on the obstinacy of our selectors might still be. Alviro is blocking any of 3 young players!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 10:16 GMT)

If both teams play at 100%, Proteas will beat this current Aussie side every time.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 8:46 GMT)

I have my doubts about Domingo. He seems like a nice guy but he has that "Mickey Arthur" vibe about him. The guy took over the number one team in the world so should keep winning but I think we could be better. We don't need to take 3 days off in the middle of a 3 match series considering how little test cricket the players have had. Gary Kirsten would bring in someone like Jonty Rhodes for a couple days to work with the guys on catching, Domingo just glosses over problems.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 8:22 GMT)

#StaalBurgher, I have seen similar comments by you in one of the Aussie papers. Mostly I agree with you some of the points you raise. However, on De Kock I think you are quite incorrect. He was completely uncomfortable when batting in both innings. He maybe some sort-off wunderkind with regard to limited overs cricket. He has certainly made strides by showing some patience. However the longer format is a lot different. He needs to play a lot more 4 day cricket to understand his own game in the longer format. Otherwise we will hurt his overall game and technique. Besides what are we saying to players like Stiaan van Zyl who have been consistent performers for more than two seasons, whereas De Kock has not posted a proper score in 4 day cricket.

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (February 27, 2014, 7:54 GMT)

Tommytuckersaf, that's an unusual perspective to say the least. Confidence and supporting team mates publicly is a part of sport and surely better than doing the opposite. And Smith certainly wasn't talking any of his players down after the last match.

Expect a close one this time and recent history proves that momentum counts for little, so 47 all out will be a distant memory for Aus. But whatever the outcome SA will remain no. 1 test Team by a good margin and deservedly so. Although it would be good to see them playing more test cricket and being tested more often.

Posted by sachin_vvsfan on (February 27, 2014, 7:31 GMT)

This shuld have been a 5 match series

Posted by disco_bob on (February 27, 2014, 7:24 GMT)

@TommytuckerSaffa, I'm not sure why you relentlessly bring up the 47 score, I could understand it if SA weren't bowled out themselves for 96, because that is an equally unedifying memory.

Posted by BILALBOKHARI on (February 27, 2014, 6:50 GMT)

I am eager to see quinton D kock to perform as he is gem of a player. key to success is batting once their batting click they will take advantage of australia nervousness (which they tend to show when somebody really plays well).

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 27, 2014, 6:13 GMT)

SA need to keep their feet on the ground, which they are good at doing to be fair. They are not like the opposition who make self-proclamations of greatness or get their team mates to make press releases telling us on how great they are.

SA are always slow starters, because we play so little Test cricket. Key people like Amla are coming into form, bowling attack will further be improved with Abbott and the memory of 47 All Out is scared on Australian players.

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