South Africa news June 25, 2012

Kirsten unconcerned by defeats


There is a reason why South Africa did not arrive in Johannesburg with disappointment painted on their faces after their defeats in the Zimbabwean tri-series. Cynics will say it is because they are not used to performing well in multi-team tournaments and getting as far as the final was good enough. However, the real explanation is something far more straightforward because, according to the the coach Gary Kirsten, South Africa's main priority was not to win.

It sounded like a half-baked excuse for losing by 29 runs, three wickets and nine wickets to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in a tournament that most expected South Africa to dominate. However, it was clear as Kirsten and the squad arrived back home that they would not linger long on the results over the last few days.

"It wasn't a failure, it was a very important tour," he said. "The purpose was to try out different combinations under match intensity. The results were disappointing but that wasn't our main goal. If our goal was to win a tournament in Zimbabwe we may have picked out strongest team."

Experimentation was the buzzword of the week for South Africa. They tried two different opening batting combinations, three new-ball bowling pairs and four middle-order match-ups, meaning that even when the same players featured in more than one match, the line-up was never a carbon copy of itself. "It helped us in terms of understanding what combinations we want use. The purpose was to find out," Kirsten said.

He admitted that the series may also have "confused" them in certain respects, rather than clarify who the best players for the job are. It is still a tight tussle between Richard Levi and Faf du Plessis to decide who will open with Hashim Amla, after both showed promise in that department. The middle-order also remains unpredictable. Colin Ingram had one start and one innings of substance at No.3, Justin Ontong put in a good showing at No.4 once, Farhaan Behardien struggled against spin in the conditions and Albie Morkel was given some opportunity, which he took.

Kirsten was cryptic about who had made their case for selection to the final World Twenty20 squad. "Some guys enhanced their opportunity to be selected for that squad and we were able to see what types of players do well in conditions that will be similar to Sri Lanka," he said. On the evidence available and with the return of AB de Villiers, who was rested for this tournament, it would seem Ingram and Behardien are most likely to miss out.

On the bowling front, Wayne Parnell raised eyebrows when he conceded 61 runs in four overs and 33 runs in three in the first two matches. He recovered well though, as the most economical bowler of the last two matches with returns of 2 for 18 and 3 for 16 respectively and was the only bowler to trouble Zimbabwe's batsmen in the final. "He got better and better," Kirsten said.

Concern still surrounds Lonwabo Tsotsosbe, who appeared disinterested and lethargic. In the four matches he played, he took just one wicket and was hit for 133 runs. "He has been a little bit slow this tour but I'd rather it happen now than leading into the major part of the season," Kirsten said. "He knows he's got a bit of work to do. He is a proud cricketer and takes his performances very seriously."

Marchant de Lange and Chris Morris were the other two seamers on tour. With both taking their first steps in the international game, Morris more so than De Lange, Kirsten said it was important that they were exposed to the rigours of top level cricket

"As much as this was a tour in preparation for that T20 event in September, the one thing we realised is that when you are representing your country, it doesn't matter who you are against, there's pressure," he said. "It's not like an A team where you are fighting for your place. Now you're in the team and you need to perform. There's a pressure that exists nowhere else."

Although pressure was something South Africa felt in most of their matches, Kirsten maintained casualness in his assessment of the tour. He emphasised that "it will be quickly forgotten from a performance perspective because that's what it was, to experiment with what we can do in T20 cricket," and confirmed that South Africa will field a full strength side in the three T20s against England in August. That XI will closely resemble their World T20 line-up.

Kirsten also saved some special words of praise for Zimbabwe though, to whom the tournament was anything but a practice outing. "Those guys are firing. They've got some explosive match winning players and good variety in their bowling attack," Kirsten said. "Our reason for this tour was slightly different to theirs. They played a fearless type of cricket because of the settled nature of their team. I suppose we went with an unsettled team because we wanted to test combinations."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Benny on June 27, 2012, 18:34 GMT

    The lack of ruthlessness and intent in our performances throughout the series is of huge concern.At times it just seems as if we go through the motions and lack desire.Morkel must go and be replaced by Morris.I cannot think of the last time Albie played a innings of substance for the national side,his also a terrible bowler.And where is elgar and rossouw? I think gary and the entire nation should be concerned about our abysmal performances

  • John on June 27, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    @AKS286 on (June 26 2012, 13:19 PM GMT) Yeah right , because that was the full SA side and not an experimental side which played in this tournament?

  • Joe on June 26, 2012, 22:15 GMT

    @dariuscorny...But I didn't even say England will did I? Exactly :)

  • Bryn on June 26, 2012, 13:55 GMT

    you should be concerned gary. very concerned. it showed there is no depth and players like wayne parnell are far from international quality

  • Anupam on June 26, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    below the pic of tsotsobe it is written "Lonwabo Tsotsosbe's form is a worry for South Africa but he has the backing of the coach"- i did't think so. look at the performance and he has taken up the wickets of batsmen not tailenders in his whole career.

  • Anupam on June 26, 2012, 13:19 GMT

    zim fought very bravely in whole series and won. zim won over SA & WI loss to ENG. Zim is better than WI. ZIM don't have star players. SA & ENG T20 side is equivalent.

  • John on June 26, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    @EnglishCricket on (June 25 2012, 14:10 PM GMT) I honestly think this T20wc is very very open and any of the established 8 nations can win it. WI are 9th ranked but guys like Narine will be more effective in SL and we all know what guys like Gayle , Smith , Bravo and Pollard can do with the bat. India are 7th but they have so much talent on paper and in SC conditions.SA have AB , Steyn,Morkel, Ind have Sehwag,Kholi,Dhoni , NZ have Guptill,Vetori,Ryder , Pak - Afridi , Ajmel,Gul , Aus have Warner,Hussey,Lee , SL - Sanga , Jaya , Malinga. All it takes in this fmt is for one or 2 of those players to shine and they can take the game away from any side. I'd actually say we (Eng) without KP , have the least big name/ impact T20 players out there but we somehow seem good at this fmt

  • John on June 26, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    @Arvindh Sarangapani on (June 26 2012, 08:44 AM GMT) surely there are less than 7 1st team regulars in that SA side. Not sure if Smith still plays T20 but I presume AB , Morne M , Kallis , Dumminy , Botha , Steyn would all be involved and they are just names I could think of from the top of my head. Also recent series results have shown that SA are in a good place in T20.

  • John on June 26, 2012, 12:33 GMT

    I always say that the shorter the format , the greater the chance is of the minnows causing an upset and Zimbabwe may also be better than what we imagine at T20. Also this was very much a 2nd string SA side although if I was a SA fan I'd still be concerned about our bench strength and the margin of victory.

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Big SA cannot win the minnows leaving out their 4 main 11 players? that means they have a poor bench strength..Omg...they still had 7 main 11 players isnt it? they didnot loose 1 match but they lost 3 :-P

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