Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
South Africa's inability to pick the variations of India's wristspinners, in particular the googly, is the chief cause of their woes in the series so far, according to JP Duminy.
As the senior-most batsman in the squad in match terms and the top run-scorer on an otherwise dismal card in Cape Town, Duminy was tasked with explaining what went wrong at Newlands. He did not have all the answers but he was convinced South Africa's discomfort at the crease was caused by uncertainty of what's coming at them.
"We haven't picked the wrong 'uns and when you are not picking their wrong un's, you are not necessarily going to comfortable at the crease so you are always going to be a little bit tentative," Duminy said. "Once you become comfortable with picking their deliveries, that's when you can play with confidence, with ease, with freedom. We need to find a way to get that right."
Strictly speaking, the googly is not the only reason South Africa have been outspun. While Duminy was the victim of a Kuldeep Yadav wrong'un in Durban, wickets have fallen to long-hops, like Quinton de Kock in Centurion, to flight, like Aiden Markram in Cape Town, and to just to the variation of unorthodox left-arm spin, like Chris Morris, twice in three matches.
What India's spinners have done particularly well is prevent South Africa from coming at them, like they would like to do, by holding back their lengths. Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal have slowed down the pace at which they bowl and made a mockery of South Africa's game plans to rotate strike and are now forcing the hosts to head back to the drawing board and come up with something else.
"They've assessed conditions better than us. They've bowled a touch slower than our spinners. They haven't bowled the ball full enough for us to get to the ball, to hit down the ground. That's where we have been successful in South African conditions, and they haven't allowed that. We need to make sure we have different strategies, not only scoring boundaries but finding the one square of the wicket as well," Duminy said. "Yes, we have game plans and they've bowled well enough not to give us the balls to play in our game plan. We've got to come up with different ways of countering how good they've been."
Duminy did not delve into the other options South Africa can look at but promised that despite the two-day turnaround between games, South Africa would debrief, regroup and seek out a new strategy. He also accepted the blame, on behalf of everyone in the batting line-up, for their failures so far. "We've spoken about how crucial partnerships are. We haven't had the opportunity to put together partnerships. The only standout performance was Faf's in the first game. As a batting unit we've got to make sure we are better. We've got take it on the chin and take responsibility and know we are better than that," Duminy said. "Throughout this series so far, we've lost wickets in clusters so we haven't given ourselves a chance. It comes down to execution. We've got plans of how to counter their spin but we haven't managed to execute."
The expected return of AB de Villiers for the next three matches, which Duminy called a "massive boost", will go some way to lifting morale and to adding some seniority to an otherwise inexperienced group. "He will bring confidence to the team and his leadership within the group will add a lot of value as well."
As for the player who is actually leading, Aiden Markram, Duminy showed solidarity with the young captain and confirmed Markram has been leaning on seniors including himself as he tries to get the team through this difficult period. "He has confided in a few guys on different ways of doing things. This is the quickest way to learn, going through difficult times. The type of character he is, he will get through it," Duminy said. "It's not a case where he needs to go through this process alone. We are a team and the team has not played well - it's not that he hasn't led well. As a captain you can only do so much, you can only say so much, you can only motivate so much. We've got to stand up and put in the performances we've been paid to do."
South Africa vs India
South Africa v India 2018