Proteas look past Sri Lanka to Cup

SA senior men's national cricket team captain Faf du Plessis (L) in a discussion with head coach Ottis Gibson (R) during a training session at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on August 3, 2018 in Balagolla, Sri Lanka.
SA senior men's national cricket team captain Faf du Plessis (L) in a discussion with head coach Ottis Gibson (R) during a training session at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on August 3, 2018 in Balagolla, Sri Lanka.
Image: Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images

Played eight‚ lost five. Oh dear.

But‚ as Ottis Gibson explained after the last match of SA’s tour to Sri Lanka‚ winning was not everything.

“If it was all about winning we would have brought [Imran] Tahir [who was rested] and all the other guys‚” Gibson said in Colombo.

“But winning a series in Sri Lanka right now doesn’t give us a strong indicator about where we are going towards the World Cup.”

The tournament will be played from May 30 to July 14 in England‚ where conditions will not be anything like those in the sub-continent.

So SA’s mission in Sri Lanka amounted to an audit of their skills base.

“This exercise in giving young players opportunities to see where they are gives us a better chance when it comes to sitting down and picking a team.

“By the time we get to Pakistan in South Africa [in December and January], we’ll be picking the team that is very close to the team that will go and help us win the World Cup.”

Gibson spoke after SA had been dismissed for 98 – their lowest total in 104 T20s – on their way to defeat by three wickets.

That followed two losses to end a one-day series the visitors had claimed by winning the first three games‚ which came after two Tests in which they were soundly beaten.

“In the first three games of the [ODI] series we remembered that the focus for the last six‚ eight months – since I’ve been involved – has been on trying to get ready for the World Cup‚” Gibson said.

“So we sat down and spoke about the style of play that we wanted.

“We talked about positive intent and taking the game forward. But within that comes clear thinking.

“So [on Tuesday] I questioned our thinking more than anything else.

“I don’t think there was enough clear thinking in terms of guys working out for themselves what shots were relevant on the pitch.

“We talk about how we want to be positive but we still want to make good decisions.

“The team or the players that make the best decisions under pressure are the ones that perform the best.

“The decision-making of some of our players in terms of shot selection [on Tuesday] was questionable.”

He saw echoes of that tendency in the last two ODIs‚ with a focus on how SA’s batsmen handled Akila Dananjaya‚ the off-spinner who also knows his way around leg breaks and googlies.

“Akila got wickets [in the first three games] but we took a lot of runs off him because we were positive in our decision-making and we swept and we scored.

“What I don’t want is for people to go back into themselves and start to think you’ve got to defend. I want guys to look to score.

“In the last couple of games‚ where we tried to defend‚ it’s a different story.”

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