Challenged by spin, Benkenstein shifts focus on learning

Despite a poor show against spin in the Test series, South Africa’s batting coach Dale Benkenstein is confident that the visitors will fancy their chances in the 50-over leg of the tour.

South Africa were bowled out in less than 60 overs in three of the four innings they played in the two Tests. In the last innings, they put up a fairly decent show, courtesy Theunis de Bruyn’s century.

Benkenstein adds that the batsmen have got better through the course of the tour in playing spin, and will look at the upcoming ODI series as ‘an opportunity’ for their batsmen to get better.

“It’s huge value for us to be here – we’re not in the subcontinent again for a while,” Benkenstein said. “Even though we’ve had a poor Test series, there’s been a lot of work done on spin for a lot of batters. There’s been a lot of learning going on. We’re seeing this as a great opportunity to just get better. Not only the guys who are playing, but some of the young guys who are with us now.

“We tell them to use these conditions. Use the nets. Ask people around you. Try and get as much out of it as you can, other than just in the matches that are going on.”

One of the issues South African batsmen faced during the Test series was their inability to pick up bowlers from their hand, with 37 out of 40 wickets fell to spinners – Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan and Akila Dananjaya. Even earlier this year, Indian wrist spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – played a crucial role as they thrashed South Africa 5-1 in the ODI series in South Africa.

When South Africa were whitewashed against India in the 2015 Test series, they bounced back to beat them in the ODIs, at the back of their pacers and batsmen. However, they are unlikely to get similar conditions in Sri Lanka to reverse their fortunes in the limited overs.

With the batsmen out of form, and the pacers unlikely to get as much assistance, spin will again be a major factor. Benkenstein claims reading the spinners from their hands was the area that needed to be worked on following their whitewash in the Tests, and technology has been the best aid to help their cause.

“Picking the bowlers is massive,” he explained. “It’s something that’s fairly hard to coach. You’ve got to have a lot of experience. Now we are lucky – we’ve got some technology that you can go and watch bowlers, and try and pick up anything that can help you out. But ultimately, the guys have got to go out there and work it out for themselves.

“One of the big things is trying to take out one form of dismissal. If you’re not sure which way the ball’s going, it’s always better to be covering your own stumps until you start to find that you’re picking him. Often with wristspinners, once you get one wicket, they get two or three. It’s just trying to prevent that.

“The senior guys have got no problem – they’ve been there before. It’s really for the younger guys who are trying to understand that you can’t actually face a ball that’s spinning both ways until you can actually read it. It’s really those first 10 balls – to make sure they’ve got a game plan to cover one way. With spinners, if you face them longer, you start to pick up the changes the bowler has.”

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