South Africa head coach Mark Boucher conceded that Pakistan deserved to win the ODIs and admitted that, in the final ODI, the Proteas erred tactically by bowling one too many overs of spin at the death. Boucher further stressed that having a weakened team is no excuse to put up a bad performance.
On a sluggish Centurion wicket in the series decider on Wednesday, Pakistan blasted their way to 200/1 in the 35th over but a tactical masterstroke from home skipper Temba Bavuma, who decided to put all his eggs in the ‘spin’ basket, saw the Proteas claw their way back into the contest. 206/1 at one stage, the visitors were reduced to 257/6 in no time and incredibly it turned out to be spinners who accounted for each of the five wickets that fell.
However, the spin ploy backfired towards the close of the first innings as Bavuma persisting with the part-time finger-spin of Aiden Markram and JJ Smuts ended up playing into the hands of Pakistan, who ended up smashing 45 runs across overs 47, 48 and 49, all of which were bowled by spinners.
It was ultimately with the bat that the Proteas lost the game, falling 28 runs short of Pakistan’s total of 320, but head coach Mark Boucher, speaking post match, conceded that the tactical blunder to persist with spin tilted the balance of the game. Notably, 9 of the last 10 overs in the first innings were bowled by spinners.
“Never like to lose a series at home, but well played to Pakistan. They were the better team. We gave ourselves a chance with the ball towards the end, but losing early wickets put us back. We tried to set ourselves small targets and there are short boundaries. Spin seemed to be the best option, and maybe we bowled one too many at the end, but well done to them to exploit that,” Boucher said in the post match presentation.
“We played in pockets. When we were bad we were really bad and that's where Pakistan have capitalized.”
After levelling the series at the Wanderers, South Africa essentially fielded at a ‘B’ team in the series decider as apart from losing a handful of players - Rabada, de Kock, Nortje and Miller - to IPL duties, the Proteas also were without Rassie van der Dussen, who sprained his quad muscle prior to the game. The injuries opened the door for a host of newcomers but while the likes of Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne grabbed their chances, it ultimately wasn’t enough for hosts to secure a series win.
Boucher lauded the younger guys for putting their hands up but made it clear that losing first-team players can be no excuse for bad performances.
“After the first game, there were some average dismissals which we put right in the second game. There were a couple of guys who came in, Malan, Kyle and Phehlukwayo put in good performances, but still, disappointed at the moment. [On missing five players] There are no excuses there, we knew some time ago what the situation was, so no excuses whatsoever,” Boucher said.
More than the manner and margin of defeat, there was a bigger concern for the Proteas in the final ODI as skipper Temba Bavuma started hobbling mid-way through his innings, finding it excruciatingly difficult to even take easy singles. Bavuma lasted just 23 balls and seemed in clear discomfort, and Boucher confirmed that the 30-year-old’s situation ‘does not look good’. This could mean that the Proteas skipper could be a doubt for the four-match T20I series that starts in two days’ time at the Centurion.
“Temba doesn't look good I'm afraid. But he was struggling while batting as well. I don't think the near future is good for him or for us,” the Proteas Head Coach said.