Allan Donald returns to ground of ‘greatest choke’

Birmingham has good and bad memories for Proteas coach Allan Donald. It was at this ground where he participated in what could be termed South Africa’s greatest choke in the 1999 World Cup. It was also his county home for countless seasons and where he met his wife.

With Pakistan invading the ground he made a home away from home, he feels that the South African bowling attack has recovered from the Cardiff chainsaw massacre where the front-line pace bowlers went for combined figures of 5/234 in 30 overs.

It was gory stuff and Donald believes his attack has learnt their lessons. It ended up being the difference between the teams. Playing on a fresh pitch excited Donald, although he cautioned against the need for two spinners.

“Here you can always expect a little bit of turn and I’m actually glad we’re using a fresh pitch. Not a lot of grass will be shaven off the pitch. There could even be a little bit of nip for the team bowling second,” Donald said.

“Turn doesn’t mean that you’ve got to play two spinners because the wicket will get bad or it will rag square. The spinners will be in the game.”

With a pace-heavy attack, fielding restrictions could be a headache for any team. Taking pace off the ball has not been South Africa’s forte, not that Donald wants to change it.

Captain AB de Villiers has been using the term “aggressive mind-set” as a watchword. But only four fielders are allowed outside the circle when there are no fielding restrictions and, with that major limitation, Donald said it could bring the best out of his team.

“With four guys out there now it is a nightmare. The one extra fielder we used to have was a luxury. Back in the day, you could usually get away with a bad ball, but now if you don’t play to a certain field with only four out then you’ll get blown out of the water,” said Donald.

“The strategy is very precise. You have to be brave; the skill levels continuously have to be asking questions of the bowler; how they think and how calm they are mentally under pressure.”

Responsibility in action was missing from the Proteas in all departments on Thursday against India, but an excellent back-end performance made up for the pallid performance upfront.

With Edgbaston’s square known for its propensity to rough up the ball, a key component for reverse swing, Donald said the attack knew how defined their roles are.

“Everyone knows where they fit in. We often talk about the death-bowling role and when we used to have two guys who used to bowl at the death now you have about four guys who want to bowl at the death. That is just the skill level that has been asked from everyone, not just two or three,” said Donald.

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