The fire wasn’t in Babylon. it had been in Pretoria. Mark Boucher says South Africa’s 2-0 Test series win within the Caribbean was sparked in conversations that crackled just like the flame-warmed air that carried words and feelings into hearts and minds.
“We sat around the fire in Pretoria, where the new captain asked a few of questions on where we are and where we were going and where we would like to be,” Boucher told a web news conference in St Lucia on Monday (June 21) after Dean Elgar’s team beat West Indies by 158 runs with quite each day to spare.
That followed their victory by an innings and 63 runs at an equivalent ground last week. it had been their first success within the five away series they need to be played since they won in New Zealand in March 2017, and only their second in seven series altogether.
“Quite a couple of honest chats came out there, as they are doing around a South African fire in the dark,” Boucher said. “The guys bought into a process that [Elgar] wanted to align his tenure with. You were either on the bus or not on the bus. Thankfully everyone decided they were on the bus.
“It doesn’t only work when you’re on the sector. That’s where you get results, but tons of effort’s need to be put in behind closed doors – the way we train, the way we talk, the language, the arrogance, the way we speak to every other. That’s probably where it started, at that fireplace .”
Elgar has played under five captains, notably Graeme Smith and Faf du Plessis, and led the team in two Tests himself before he was appointed before the series. An old-fashioned, unvarnished straight-talker, Elgar seems to possess left his players under no illusion about what’s expected of them – including that sometimes they’re going to be required to play what he has called “boring cricket” to prevent opponents from gaining a plus.
“Certain guys have a different language,” Boucher said. “Dean might say it’s boring. we are saying it’s just disciplined cricket. But the language he’s been using is resonating with the players, so good on him for bringing it.
“Test cricket is all about having the ability to soak up the pressure at certain stages then having the ability to use it. Our guys are getting smarter at choosing those moments – when to soak up and when to use. If you would like to call that being boring at certain stages of the sport, yes, you’ve got to be. But what’s impressive on my behalf me is that there are stages during this series where we could drive the nail in and that we did that. It’s good to ascertain the blokes answer the language a pacesetter is sending out.”
Elgar has taken to the leadership with enthusiasm, and from his sustained smile, he’s enjoying being responsible. But Boucher cautioned that it had been youth for a team that went into the series ranked seventh, or as low as they need yet been.
“When you’re winning the team’s always getting to be smiling. the blokes need to start out playing for every other again, and that I think we saw that. How do sustain that? you cannot become the No. 1 team within the world overnight. this is often an extended process that we have got to stay performing on from a skill perspective, being smarter, from a confidence perspective. I’m looking forward to the time where we get anesthetize pressure to ascertain how we respond. That’s where we will judge where we are.”
Even so, the very fact that the South Africa ns had impressed on unfamiliar pitches – South Africa last played Tests in West Indies in June 2010 – augured well for his or her future. “When you’re a young team, the simplest place for them to find out to play cricket is in foreign conditions,” Boucher said. “Although we didn’t win in Pakistan [in January and February, when the house side won 2-0] tons of our kids learned good lessons there. We came here and that they knew these conditions were getting to be tough.
“This is how you develop players; by playing in several conditions. That’s where they begin learning about their games and making slight adjustments that are getting to hopefully turn them into world-class players at some point. Foreign conditions can only improve you as a player.”
Elgar replaced Quinton de Kock, whose game suffered when he was South Africa’s all-format captain: in six Test innings at the helm he scored 74 runs. Relieved of the burden, he made a career-best 141 not call at the primary St Lucia Test and 96 within the second match.
“The way that he’s been off the sector has been fantastic,” Boucher said of De Kock. “In the changeroom, he’s fun and lighthearted. That’s always getting to reflect within the way that he goes out and plays on the sector. once you have a player like that, who can take the sport far away from the opposition, it’s good to get on his side.”
Monday’s star was Keshav Maharaj, who dismissed Kieran Powell, Jason Holder, and Joshua da Silva with consecutive deliveries two overs before lunch to become only the second South Africa player to say a Test hat-trick.
“Honestly, I assumed Powell played a nasty shot just before lunch,” Boucher said. “We saw ‘Kesh’s’ first ball against Holder the opposite day, so we knew that if you get the ball within the right area first up then it had been always getting to be a nervous time for him. He managed to urge the ball within the right area and it had been a pleasant sharp catch [by Keegan Petersen at short leg]. I felt for da Silva coming in – he probably should never have been batting at that point. Probably ‘Kesh’s’ worst ball of the lot got the hattrick. But it had been an excellent catch by Wiaan [Mulder at leg slip].”
Considering his team’s superiority was plain for all to ascertain, Boucher could afford to talk with slightly of deprecation. That wasn’t the case across the dressingroom divide, where Kraigg Brathwaite told a web press conference: “As batsmen, we all know where we went wrong: we didn’t bat well. Full stop. We didn’t do the work. We let the team down, and that we disappointed the fans. We’re very sorry. We were disappointing. we have got to return and show fight. Sometimes it isn’t all about winning, but we have got to point out fight. We didn’t show fight in the least .”
De Kock scored the series’ only hundred, and South Africans made four of the six half-centuries. No century stands were registered, but the visitors recorded six 50 partnerships compared to West Indies’ one. All three five-wicket hauls were claimed by South Africa bowlers. De Kock and Rassie van der Dussen were the rubber’s leading run-scorers and Kagiso Rabada and Maharaj topped the wicket-takers.
In short, the visitors burned bright. that is what fires do.