Rare chance looms for South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA’S TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2022

South Africa’s squad has only four survivors from their last Test appearance – against India in 2014. © Getty

How do you prepare a team for a match in a format they hardly ever play? Hilton Moreeng, the coach of the South Africa side who will start a rare women’s Test against England in Taunton on Monday, smiled at the question.

When South Africa last played a Test the No. 1 song in the US was Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”. On the first day of the match, but more than 15,000 miles away in New Orleans, Solange Knowles – Beyonce’s younger sister – married Alan Ferguson. Who? Nevermind: they separated five years later. Or before South Africa had played another Test. Yes, their drought has outlived marriages. Since the women were last in whites, against India in Mysore in November 2014, South Africa’s men have played 65 Tests.

Only five of Moreeng’s squad of 15 have played first-class cricket, all in Tests; earning six caps in all. Or the same number won by Moreeng alone during his days as a wicketkeeper for Free State’s first-class side in the early 2000s.

With 37 first-class caps, which are also Test caps, England’s squad are six times more seasoned than their opponents. Their most recent match in the format wasn’t almost eight years ago but in January. This year. Not that England have been lurching from one Test to the next. They have played five since South Africa’s most recent; four against Australia, one against India, all but one of them drawn.

Australia and England played the first women’s Test at the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane in December 1934. One or both of those teams have been involved in 173 of the 290 women’s Tests yet played: almost 60%. New Zealand, India, South Africa and West Indies have played 107. Men played 238 Tests before women made their debut. The current Headingley Test between England and New Zealand is the 2,467th between men’s teams – eight-and-a-half times as many as women have played.

South Africa will go into Monday’s match having featured in 173 white-ball internationals since a handful of their players last pulled on a pair of whites. Small wonder Moreeng said they were struggling to adjust. “The ones battling currently are our batters, because we’ve just come from a white-ball competition against Ireland [earlier this month, when South Africa played three matches in each format], “Moreeng told a press conference on Thursday.” What has helped is the prep we had prior to the Ireland tour; a three-day and four-day game where we introduced most of them to the format. The bowlers have adapted much better.

“We know that, in the other two formats, you can build partnerships. But in this one you need to take it session by session. It’s about longer concentration, and it’s more taxing on the body and the mind. Technically players need to be sound. Everyone is starting to understand, and they’re excited to see how it goes. ”

South Africa completed their Test preparations in a three-day game against England A at Arundel that ended on Thursday. The star of the visitors’ first innings of 301 was opener Laura Wolvaardt, who batted for more than three-and-a-half hours and faced 148 balls to reach 101, whereupon she retired. That Wolvaardt succeeded will not surprise those familiar with her textbook technique and solid temperament, but it remains astounding that she should reel off a century in her first senior representative two-innings match. In the same innings Lara Goodall scored 51 and Sune Luus made 48. Wolvaardt and Goodall shared a stand of 116. All told in their first innings, the South Africans batted for almost five hours and faced 489 balls.

That was enough to nurture hope in Moreeng: “How batters set up their innings, taking their time and showing application, was not there in the preparation matches that we had. We are very happy to see that on the back of white-ball cricket. Most of our batters have spent time in the middle to be able to understand what’s required. ”

As for the bowlers: “They need to make sure they can manage the excessive swing they get with the Duke ball on these pitches, and also the lengths they have to adapt to. They need patience around setting up batters and working towards a plan. ”

There were eight South Africa debutants in that 2014 Test. There could be 10 in Taunton on Monday. The only squad survivors from Mysore are Trisha Chetty, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee and Chloe Tryon. Maybe that’s no bad thing considering South Africa lost by an innings. “We were well into the game, then we lost concentration as a unit after tea and that’s when we lost the match,” Moreeng said, a reference to South Africa losing 6/25 on the second day. “It shows what a lack of concentration can do. We need to make sure that everyone understands the discipline required in this game and how you need to stay focused and stay on the button because every session is critical. We need to make sure we stay focused and competitive in every session. ”

Not only to perform well but to refute, with deeds, not words, Dean Elgar’s assertion in April: “It’s a man’s environment when it comes to playing at this level.”

© Cricbuzz

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