Boucher says Proteas have to keep positive as they go in search of miracle win at wanderers
JOHANNESBURG – Nothing about South Africa’s batting in the last two years suggests they can chase down 466, but with this series against England on the line, they have to hope for a miracle.
Head coach Mark Boucher, ever the pragmatist, recognises that the Proteas’ batsmen have offered little reason for optimism – but he and they must hope. “The confidence has been a bit low,” said Boucher. “We have to try and keep talking positive, get the guys’ confidence levels up and that is exactly what we’ve been trying to do. It’s been tough on the players, but this is what Test cricket is all about – going through tough times, and stepping up when required. The guys are trying, it’s been a tough and dark period for us in the last couple of weeks.”
It’s been more than the last couple of weeks – that tough and dark period goes back a year and includes the Tests against Sri Lanka, the World Cup and the tour to India. Expecting Boucher and his coaching staff to turn things around in just five weeks is unrealistic and perhaps that win in the first Test wasn’t helpful.
It masked the very deep problems that exist with the national team and which has required Boucher to – as he put it on Sunday night – set up “different processes in the near future to try and upskill the guys.”
“It’s tough times. Our attitude in the dressing room is that it will take a lot of hard work but that is what we are prepared to do,” he added.
England’s bowlers had Sunday afternoon off as Joe Root chose not to enforce the follow-on, they will also have a night’s rest and will certainly look to take advantage of the mental fragility in the South African camp, and the new ball on Monday morning.
“It’s a new ball wicket. It goes around for about 30 overs, but then the ball gets softer and strokemaking gets easier. We don’t have to be flashy, there is a way and means to go about getting 450,” said Boucher.
South Africa in fact did so at this very ground six years ago against India, falling eight runs short of victory in an enthralling draw. However in 2013 South Africa had Smith, Kallis, De Villiers and an inform Faf du Plessis that they could call on.
“If we bat for two days, the run rate is still very gettable. It’s quite a few runs to chase, it’s never been done before but we’ve got to hold onto some positivity and also the fact a few of our batters are due. It will be tough, but we’ll give it a go,” said Boucher.