October 4, 2022
England vs South Africa, 3rd Test 2022

Outgoing coach Mark Boucher expressed his disappointment that South Africa’s batsmen did not give their bowlers enough opportunity to challenge England, which he called “missed an opportunity” of winning his last Test series in charge. Speaking after the 2-1 series loss, but before his resignation was made public, a clearly disappointed Boucher expressed regret at South Africa’s lack of runs which failed to support a strong pace pack.

“I am disappointed because this is a missed opportunity,” he said. “We played some really good cricket but then we let ourselves down. We didn’t score runs on the board, so we never knew how we were going to test England. We believed we had bowlers capable of taking 20 wickets. But you have to score runs.”

But as much as Boucher was not satisfied with his batsmen, he could not bring himself to lay the blame solely on them, instead dividing it between the opposition’s bowling, English conditions and lack of experience.

“I’m disappointed but understand that our guys didn’t go out and try to play mind-boggling cricket. We worked really hard. I could see it tomorrow [day four of the Oval Test when South Africa worked their way to 83 for 1, but they went on to lose 9 for 86], People tested and fell short technically, but also because of good bowling. We knew England’s attack was good and we were going to be tested. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stand it.

“We always knew we would be under pressure if the conditions changed a bit. In South Africa, the conditions are not the same. That ball doesn’t swing, the contact points are different, and the batsmen here have consistently in our country. Has been the best batsman. If you take a look at the last top seven, who came to England and won the series [in 2012]There were 470 odd Test matches between them. With 10 of our batsmen batting in the top seven in this series, we are at around 170. There is a big difference. The only way for you to gain experience is to go out there and play.”

And this is where it is difficult for South Africa. In the current World Test Championship (WTC) cycle they only have another three-Test series against Australia in the festive period, and will then play a two-Test series until they host England in 2026. Like captain Dean Elgar, who regularly laments the lack of Test cricket, Boucher also made the case for more games, although the next Future Tour program (2023–2027) has been decided and there is little room.

“It’s a fine line as a coach because a guy comes and you don’t want to replace him. This is not an academy of learning. This is Test cricket.”

Mark Boucher, coach of South Africa

Boucher said, ‘It is not a good thing to lose sight of Test cricket and lose the match. “I’m a purist. I love Test cricket. It’s the purest form of the game and one that we really need to look at. The game needs to find a way for the chiefs to come together and play more Test cricket , ” They said. “And it’s exciting, especially with the way games are being played now. It’s very rare that you’ve drawn. The game has progressed, probably because of T20 cricket. People are playing shots they usually do. But will never play. It’s attacking and it’s a good game to watch at the moment. So the more we watch it, the better it is for everyone.”

This may also be part of South Africa’s problem. While their Test batsmen cannot be accused of playing an overly aggressive T20 style, they can be criticized for their lack of innovation which leads to limited scoring options and a tentative approach to scoring. While Boucher and batting coach Justin Sammons have changed South Africa’s approach to limited-overs, with players bringing in more reverse sweeps and paddles than before, they have been unable to do the same with the Test line-up, and so Maybe because he is a more stubborn batsman by nature, especially when compared with a team like England.

“We give people the freedom to play and express themselves,” Boucher said. “The way England want to go out and play, you first need characters to do that. A lot of their guys are good white-ball cricketers too. You have to believe in these conditions, your defense. We are theirs. Couldn’t keep the good balls out. It’s one thing to tell people to go out there and play freely, but it has consequences when people are fighting for their Test spots and fighting for their careers. Play with as much freedom as a coach can say, within your blueprint we want you to be good and aggressive, we want you to play a good, aggressive style of cricket, it depends on the person and the character that comes with it ; Who trusts his defense and goes out and tries to dominate an attack.”

Boucher was also wary of trying to do too much with Test batsmen, who should have already developed a way of playing that only needs some fine-tuning once they reach the international level. “It’s a fine line as a coach because a guy comes and you don’t want to replace him. It’s not an academy of learning. It’s Test cricket,” Boucher said. “You don’t want to change him too much because you don’t even want to give him the option of saying, ‘I came here playing my own way, and I went into Test cricket and you tried to change me. Maybe I should have just been myself. That’s the fine line. As a coach you’re probably going to have to go back to the drawing board and say ‘Let’s take a look at how you play in all these different conditions and experience it all, and hopefully, try And get it right. Next time you’ll be back here’.”

And in reference to the example of someone whose technique was not considered good but ultimately won, Boucher chose one of South Africa’s best. “Look at Hashim Amla. His technique compared to when he started playing Test cricket, now it’s conditioning with a lot of experience with a lot of time; going through some ups and downs. That’s what these guys go through. “

Amla played in the team with big run-scorers and rose to the role of being one of the biggest. South Africa now have no one in that mould, not even Elgar, who is closing in on 5000 runs but is not as consistent as the old batsmen. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect them to give the results of the old one. And even though we are all tired of reading how much transition and learning South Africa still has, there is more to it. He thought of dropping Aiden Markram and ousting Rassie van der Dussen with injury to make the change, and now he has to take possession of the batsmen to avoid failing in the same way.

Boucher said, “We got into a situation in this game where we had to give opportunities to other people. You can’t go with the same people and they keep failing.” “Sometimes it gets into their heads, and you can see that people are working really hard, but it’s like sinking sand – the harder they try, the deeper they fall.”

Firdous Munda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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