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HomeSportProteas batters require more focus at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Proteas batters require more focus at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Johannesburg — As the Proteas head to Melbourne where they hope conditions for batting will be easier than in Brisbane, the same question remains for them ahead of the second Test.

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Can the batters score enough runs for the bowlers to properly work with?

The cynical response is ‘no’ but that is not the way the players think, nor can they afford to do so. Last week they were handed a ‘get out of jail free card’ because of the now sanctioned Gabba pitch that was used for the first Test.

The MCG promises to be a bit easier for a couple of reasons. Cricket Australia has reportedly stepped in having recognised that last week’s surface at the Gabba was weighted too much in favour of the bowlers. In addition, last season’s Ashes Test at the MCG was over in three days, and at the time was described as the most difficult pitch any of the local players had batted on in Australia. The Boxing Day Test is a marquee event on the Australia sporting calendar and the game’s authorities want a spectacle.

Cricket Australia is keeping a close eye on the preparation of the ‘drop in’ surface that will be used for next week’s match, although the organisation made clear it wasn’t giving the head groundsman, Matt Page, any instructions about the kind of pitch he must prepare.

Rather than worry about the MCG pitch, the South African players, especially the batters, are more concerned about their own performances. Khaya Zondo spoke for all the batters when he said Wednesday that he’d like to have a flat track. That would be a novelty for the Proteas, who either played on green seamers (Christchurch, Brisbane and the Oval) or raging turners (Durban and Gqeberha). “I did think this year, for anyone in the Proteas team it was going to be a tough year of international cricket,” said Zondo. “ It’s a test for everyone, especially the batters, because the pitches haven’t been that friendly for them.”

Following last week’s opening Test, Dean Elgar remarked that rather than deny what happened, he wanted the batters to confront their shortcomings. “The one thing I have learned (is that) Test cricket is played between the stumps; the guys are testing your technique, it’s played with a straight blade, it’s been very tricky wickets,” said Zondo, who got a second ball duck in the first innings and was then top-scorer in the second with an unbeaten 36.

“For me it was a matter of making sure you defend the stumps, because that is where all the dismissals happened. It was a matter of making sure that you really watch the ball closely, and any movement off the pitch, whether up or down or sideways, you had to make sure you are ahead of it, so you can adjust accordingly. The ball that got me in the first innings moved quickly, so in the second innings, I made sure to watch the ball closer and move quicker, just in case it nipped, or bounced lower, to just stay ahead of the ball.”

There were wider lessons for everyone too. “It’s a matter of applying ourselves, getting really focussed, making sure we are present at the crease all the time. A lot of guys are new to Test cricket, there are new tricks, there’s a different intensity. (You need to) really really focus on the ball and have all your soul and might there.”

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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