Johannesburg — A loss that wasn’t really a loss against the England Lions should hopefully provide the Proteas with some much-needed intel ahead of the first Test against the senior England team that starts at Lord’s on Wednesday.
While any defeat is dispiriting — especially one where the margin is an innings and 56 runs — the fact that it wasn’t an actual first-class encounter because South Africa used 13 players might provide solace. Of course, England will flip that around and say “look, our second stringers beat them even when they used two more players”, in an attempt to gain some mental advantage ahead of a highly-anticipated Test series pitting two sides, who’ve been on the up recently, against one another.
“If we look at the game as a whole, (Friday) didn’t go according to plan and (Thursday) was also tough,” said Kyle Verreynne. “We got a lot of positives out of the first two days. Obviously you want to come out on the right side of the result of any game you play. But we’ll take the positives from this and go forward.”
As for what those positives were, Verreynne said: “A lot of guys have been playing a lot of white ball cricket recently, so time in the legs, time on the field is always important going into a Test series. In the first innings, a lot of the batters spent good time out in the middle.”
Those positives are certainly scant, and the last two days of the match were humbling for the Proteas, who were dismissed for 183 in their second innings, with Aiden Markram top scoring with an unbeaten 88. England Lions scored 672, piling on those runs at a scoring rate of almost six an over, and giving the Proteas a taste of the kind of aggression they can expect from England next week.
The South Africans have spoken a lot about maintaining their composure and not getting caught up in the frenzy England is likely to create. “I don’t think we should try and replicate (England’s style),” Markram said earlier this week. “We’ve got our own brand that has been successful for us and we’ve got to back that. I don’t see our team falling into a trap of playing the same way that they play.”
Verreynne said it was important the Proteas didn’t spend too much time worrying about England. “You have to acknowledge what the opposition is doing. But we are quite focused on what we are going to do, to tick our boxes and make sure our preparation is good. I believe we can emerge on top,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to the team’s management, Kagiso Rabada is “progressing well” with his rehabilitation. Rabada missed the final T20 International against England and then both matches against Ireland with an ankle injury. He has been increasing his workload by bowling during the intervals in the Canterbury match under the watchful eye of bowling coach Charl Langeveldt.
That is certain to continue when the team moves to London over the weekend.