At this moment in time, South Africa don’t need to do a great deal to set themselves up for a win in theory. With a bowling attack that consists of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and now Lungisani Ngidi, wickets fall at regular intervals with opposition batsman outfoxed by crafty seam bowling or blown away by a hostile barrage of express pace. The South African attack has it all and there is nowhere to hide for the rival batsman.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the South African runs of late has been scored by the aforementioned bowlers as the resistance at the top of the order is wafer thin. The Proteas enter 2018 with one of the weakest batting line-ups they have had for some time. If the bowling conveyor belt is producing overtime the batsman line has completely shut down.
Ottis Gibson’s men did brilliantly to roll over India in the test series 2-1 with the series-defining performances coming from the bowlers, Ngidi’s 6-39 on debut was enough to hand the hosts a win at Centurion and wrap the series up with a game to go. Worryingly only one South African batsman recorded a hundred in the series and their highest total over the three tests was 335. Adding to the concerns would be that the Proteas failed to get past 200 in three of the six innings they batted.
The South African batsman would argue that the pitch and conditions were not conducive to making high scores but the woeful form with the willow has carried on in the ODI’s against India. In the second ODI against India at Centurion South Africa were bundled out for 118. That total was South Africa's lowest at home in ODIs and the subsequent defeat gives India a great chance to inflict immediate revenge on the Proteas in the form of a series victory with the tourists at odds of 1/7 to see the job through in cricket betting.
With the ODI series against India all but over before it ever began due to the dreadful batting the South Africans have put on display there are grave concerns about the test series to follow against Australia.
The big Australian quicks and even the wily Nathan Lyon will be chomping at the bit to bowl to the South Africans. Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein has his work cut out for him over the next three weeks to ensure the batsmen are ready to cope with what the world-class Australian bowling attack will throw at them.
Just how Benkenstein will go about gearing the men up who are tasked with putting runs on the board for South Africa remains to be seen. Woefully out of form and brittle, the Proteas top-order would be decimated by most of the bowling attacks around the world at present.
There is no substitute for confidence or hard work. Only through hard work will Gibson’s batsmen locate the self-belief that has been missing. Beginning a test series short on confidence against the Australians is a recipe for disaster that usually produces catastrophic implosion. It will be a desperate race against time for the Proteas to ensure they are match ready and competitive for this crucial home series.