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Conditions will dictate how Proteas tackle Australia, says Proteas Rassie van der Dussen

Cape Town – Rassie van der Dussen feels the Proteas batting unit have been unfairly criticised this year.

Van der Dussen is returning to the Proteas Test squad for the upcoming three-match series against Australia after breaking a finger in the second Test against England in August.

The 33-year-old has played every Test for the Proteas – bar the series-decider at The Oval this year – since his debut against England at Centurion in December 2019.

In that period, he has seen a Proteas team transformed from a struggling unit that lost against both England (home) and Pakistan (away) to a side that is now placed second on the ICC Test Championship standings and with a realistic chance of progressing to the final at The Oval next year.

This upturn in fortunes has mostly been credited to the bowling unit’s impressive performances though, with the batters consistently struggling to post totals in excess of 400.

This has primarily been due to the lack of individual hundreds among the batters, with only opener Sarel Erwee and wicket-keeper Kyle Verryenne managing centuries in 2022. In fact, Van der Dussen has yet to score a ton in 17 Tests.

Van der Dussen, however, believes the conditions the Proteas have encountered have played a significant role in this and that he is looking forward to encountering favourable Australian pitches.

“People have been quite critical of our batting unit in the last two years, and like you mentioned in England it was very tough. But if you think of the last 18-20 months, the conditions we have batted in have been really tough,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“The numbers tell that story. Our guys are averaging in the 30’s, and some of the other countries are averaging in the 50s and 60s, and people compare the two without exactly looking at that point of taking conditions into consideration.

“I definitely see it as we are sitting in second place on the WTC, and that tells you that the cricket we’ve been playing has been sufficient to get us there. Whatever the conditions we have batted in, the other teams have also batted in, and we have come out on top. Sometimes I think people look too much into those stats.

“Yes, as a batting unit, I am not looking for excuses. We do want to get more 100s, and more partnerships, and score a lot more runs individually. But at the end of the day, if we as a unit get our team over the line, that’s the most important.”

The Proteas’ lack of runs has been in complete contrast to the way England have taken the world by storm with their rampaging batting in Pakistan over the last week.

Van der Dussen is adamant that conditions play a major role in how batters go about their business.

“I think if there is a place to play like that, it’s probably Pakistan. If you look at the English team, they have been very vocal that they are going to back their guys even through a few failures, they are a side that are out of the World Test Championship for this run, so it’s almost a nothing to lose type of game they can play,” he said.

“So, to an extent, they tried to do it against us, and it never really worked even though we lost the series in the end. But especially in the first game, and at Manchester we were in the game for a good part of the game, and they tried to play similarly and it didn’t work.

“It’s an approach that can work if the conditions are more docile like it was in Pakistan. I think if the bowlers are in the game, like we saw at Lord’s, it is a very fine line between going out and playing aggressively and getting out as opposed to being more disciplined.

“The conditions will dictate how you need to play in Test cricket. It is supposed to be a fair battle between bat and ball. We are coming up against a world-class attack. The batters will definitely have their work cut out for them in this series.”

The Proteas begin their one-and-only warm-up game ahead of the first Test starting at the Gabba in Brisbane on December 17 at the Allan Border Field on Friday.

@ZaahierAdams