Conrad pleased with direction SA ‘A’ are headed

South Africa A coach Shukri Conrad is satisfied with the direction his side is headed in after they held their nerves and emerged victorious by two wickets and a bonus point, in the first match of the One-Day Triangular series against India A on Wednesday.

South Africa had a lot to celebrate when they had the visitors bundled out for 152 in 41.5 overs. Excellent spells from Aaron Phangiso (4/30 in 10 overs), Dwaine Pretorius (3/24 in eight) and Beuran Hendricks (2/15 in six) ensured the low total, while the likes of Henry Davids (1/4 in 0.5), Jon-Jon Smuts (0/12 in three) and Junior Dala (0/35 in seven) maintained the pressure throughout.

Conrad believes that the manner in which the team achieved its win would be a confidence booster going forward and was much needed after a disappointing tour to England last month.

“To say that it was a tight one would be an understatement,” he said of Wednesday’s match. “Every team needs to win, but I think this side of ours desperately needed the win because it does mean a lot of confidence. If we had gone down in a low-scoring match, it  could have meant that the negatives from England could have been rehashed, but I’m proud of the way that the team stuck it out.

“There are a lot of good things to take away from that match though. I think our bowling was exceptional, our fielding was really good and on the batting side of things, Farhaan (Behardien) and Dwaine (Pretorius) showed why they are involved in the national set-up. The experience they bring, the calmness as well as the desire to get the job done went a long way.”

The coach gave the team an overall score of seven out of ten for the match and wants to see an improvement in certain areas, but he praised his bowlers for setting the right tone up front, with a special emphasis on Phangiso’s contribution.

“We set the tone from the start and that’s a coach’s dream really,” he continued. “Everything that we looked to execute they went out and did. No no-balls from the innings, a minimal amount of wides, we set the tone and we felt that we had India under pressure all the time.

“Phangi (Aaron Phangiso) coming back after a hiatus of however long, he was special and I think he’s got so much to offer still. He showed his class and he exploited the conditions particularly well.”

The home side had to readjust their batting plans after Jon-Jon Smuts had to be taken for scans during the innings break and was later diagnosed with a fractured thumb. He has been ruled out of the rest of the series and there will be no replacement for him.

Conrad used the situation as an opportunity to promote Dane Paterson up the order to number three so as to continue the side’s brand of aggressive batting. The bowler hit a four and a six in his seven-ball 11, before he was bowled out by Shardul Thakur.

“We had to do a little bit of rejigging, but I always felt that it would be easier to score up front than it was later on. The wicket was on the low and slow side and made free scoring difficult. I took my chances up front, I threw Dane Paterson at the top of the order to try and send a strong message to our players that we still want to play our aggressive brand of cricket, especially up front.

“Losing Jon-Jon (Smuts) didn’t make it any easier, but not for one minute did I think we were going to cruise there, it was always going to be a tough assignment. I as a coach, am reasonably happy and hopefully they can continue in that trend.”

Looking ahead to the team’s next assignment against Afghanistan on Sunday (30 July), the coach is excited to see how his side will execute some of the learnings they took away from the first match and believes that the result they have already returned will give his charges more confidence come match day.

“For starters, we need to make sure that we don’t underestimate the opposition,” Conrad went on. “Not that our focus is ever about the opposition, it’s about the standards and the excellence that we want to set for ourselves. Sometimes not knowing what to expect is a good thing because it frees you up and you’re forced to play what’s in front of you.

“We’re gonna look to keep building on what we want to do and the type of cricket that we want to play. There’s still a lot of work to be done and if we keep following those processes then I’m sure it will result in a lot more wins. We’re still searching for that perfect game and we know we’re up against some good opposition, but I’m sure that the confidence that that win brings will kick us on in this competition.”