South Africa scrabble for paper

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South Africa are currently undergoing vivisection. Their press and fans are twanging stretchy bits and gouging their fingers into squishy bits trying to work out what’s caused a death that has yet to take place.

An obvious issue is that they’re currently missing half their first-choice bowling attack and having lost one of those two players during the Test, have been making do with three frontline bowlers. That’s unhelpful for this match and nor will it do them any favours in the one that starts in a few days’ time.

More obviously wonky is their batting. Unlike the bowling attack, it’s not undermanned – if anything, with seven specialists, it’s overmanned. But somehow the sheer volume of batsmen isn’t making up for a shortfall in quality. A two, three, four, five of Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis is very good on paper – but paper is for wrapping chips.

Several of these Test veterans appear to have had their minds bleached and have forgotten how to lay bat on ball. We say ‘veterans’ but Duminy has only played 33 Tests and du Plessis just 27. South Africa don’t play a lot.

Nor have they been batting a lot and for all the talk of regeneration, team balance and quotas, that’s perhaps the biggest problem of all. The team’s recent fallow period in India effectively delivered a double whammy of shattered confidence and lack of match practice – because even when they got some batting in, they didn’t really get much practice at run-scoring.

Practice makes perfect and you can get out of practice – and further from perfection – surprisingly quickly. The best players also tend to recover quickly, however, and in Amla and de Villiers, South Africa have two fit that description. That’s what it says on paper anyway.


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  1. No one, particularly the cricket experts, believe what it says on paper anymore. The question the SA staff repeatedly ask is: what does it say on the parchment? Trusted sources reveal the official scroll has certain unflattering stories about the de Villiers family. Hoofus, the great great granddad of AB, is believed to have employed slaves for the express purpose running naked on the field when he feared he was losing a game of rounders to distract the opposition.

    1. Where was great great grandpa Hoofus and his entourage when AB needed them in the first over of the morning today?

    1. And they choked! They went and choked AGAIN! We killed them! We are now the best team in the world!!!!!

  2. As someone who works in the papermaking field, I can tell you that paper is for much more than simply wrapping chips. You can wipe your arse on it, diffuse tea through it, protect televisions in it, and even become appraised of the daily news via it (it’s true, Sam, this is how it used to was be).

    That’s five separate uses for paper, if you include the chips one. Truly paper is the all rounder in the cricket team of society, an all rounder who in addition to batting and bowling will also carry your TV and wipe your arse. In other words, a better all rounder. Of the great all rounders, only Botham could carry a TV and only Richard Hadlee would wipe your arse, probably.

    I should say though, please be careful to choose the right type of paper for each of these tasks, to avoid chafing.

    1. They sell moistened paper these days. Quite how this will better protect your TV is beyond us.

  3. I don’t understand why everyone is so appalled by the two-day turnaround between Tests. Isn’t it always Boxing Day Test followed by New Year’s Day Test?

    1. New years test in SA start dates

      2010 3rd January
      2011 2nd January
      2012 3rd January
      2013 2nd January
      2015 2nd January

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