Hashim Amla has called on South Africa’s top six to take the responsibility for run-scoring and not leave it up to the lower order to finish games in the ongoing ODI tri-series in the Caribbean. South Africa are carrying a longer tail than usual in the tournament, and the lower order has failed to contribute in the three matches so far, but Amla said it was not up to the tail-end batsmen to get the team over the line.
“As a team we have always backed ourselves for somebody in the top six to take it through and bat as deep as possible,” Amla said, ahead of South Africa’s match against West Indies on June 15. “Obviously we are very disappointed after our last game. We got ourselves into a very good position to win it and we didn’t quite take it through. We lost some wickets at crucial times and that cost us. Hopefully we don’t make the same mistake in the next game.”
In their loss against Australia last Saturday, South Africa collapsed from 210 for 4 to 252 all out, losing 6 for 42. They had previously lost 7 for 28 in the opening defeat against West Indies and 6 for 91 in the victory against Australia. In the three matches so far, there were only two instances of a batsman in the bottom six getting into double figures: Farhaan Behardien’s 62 and Kagiso Rabada’s 15 in the game South Africa won.
Effectively, that means South Africa’s tail begins when JP Duminy, who has not scored an ODI half-century in nine innings, is dismissed. Although Behardien has shown an ability to contribute, he has not done so consistently and Wayne Parnell has been unable to replicate the domestic form that led to his recall to the national side. The bowlers follow Parnell in the line-up, which leaves South Africa with no option but for the top six to pile on the runs, especially as they don’t have much in the way of reserves.
The only additional batsman in the squad is Dean Elgar, who was brought in to replace the injured Rilee Rossouw, but including him in the XI is tricky. If Elgar were to come in, South Africa would have to leave themselves short in the bowling department. Another option is to lengthen the batting by including Chris Morris, possibly at Parnell’s expense. Morris has recovered from a hamstring niggle and is available for selection but, as a lower-order allrounder, the responsibility cannot be left to him alone.
“It’s the responsibility of the batsmen. That’s what we enjoy doing and that’s what we would like to do,” Amla said. “We didn’t manage to do it in this game and I guess that does happen occasionally where you are not going to get it right, but we want to get it right as often as we can.”
At least South Africa know conditions in Basseterre will assist them in their quest for more runs, although Amla warned not to expect some of the towering totals that have come to define one-day cricket recently.
“It is a good wicket. It’s a higher-scoring ground than in Guyana, where 200 was a good total. Here 260 seems like a good score,” he said. “In this day and age, where we’ve seen scores of 350 in one-day cricket, it’s sobering to see 250 being a difficult score to get.”
Australia managed 288 in their win against South Africa on Saturday, but their 265 was inadequate against West Indies on Monday. Amla believed if South Africa could get somewhere close to the 260-run mark, they would give themselves a chance. “The key is to try and get the team to score around 250 or 260. It’s a good enough wicket that you can to chase it down if you bat well.”
If South Africa are faced with a higher chase, Amla said he expected the lower order to come into play. “In many games even chasing scores like 280, you end up needing your No.7, 8 and 9 to contribute a little bit,” he said. “It’s not a matter of batters or bowlers, it’s a collective effort to turn it around in the field as well as with the bat.”
All the talk about the need for a better showing is because halfway through the round-robin stage, South Africa are at the bottom of the table. They have won only one match, though they have played one less than Australia. South Africa will now take on a buoyant West Indies, who are fresh off a victory over Australia, on Wednesday. With a maximum of 15 points still up for grabs, South Africa are by no means out of contention but, having failed to score as many runs as they would have liked, they know they are up against it. “We are all extremely hungry to turn it around and get back to winning ways but it’s still early in the competition,” Amla said.