Johannesburg: Batting has been South Africa's "Achilles' heel" during the ongoing series against India, conceded captain JP Duminy, who feels each one of his team's senior players need to "look in the mirror" and improve.
"Unfortunately from a batting perspective, that's been our Achilles heel throughout this Indian tour in the short format. As players and as senior batters we have to take responsibility for that," Duminy said after South Africa lost the first Twenty20 International by 28 runs, chasing 204 for victory.
"We've got to look ourselves in the mirror, ask how we can improve and get better. Hopefully that improves (sic) come Wednesday.
"You are going to go through periods in your career, where you go through slumps, be it a senior player or a new player.
"Unfortunately, throughout the series quite a few senior players have come up short, including myself. It's been a dismal ODI series and today as well, he added.
Duminy, however, defended his bowlers for targetting Indian batsmen with short balls, a strategy that didn't quite work and did little to prevent the 'Men in Blue' from taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
"It's going to come down to execution of our skills. If we execute a plan well, it is potentially going to work. But unfortunately with our plans in place, we didn't execute as well as we'd have liked.
"I still believe and feel the plans are good, but especially when it's a shorter format you have to execute well. Unfortunately there were few missed opportunities throughout the innings. But we'll definitely come back stronger. I firmly believe that," he said.
Duminy rejected suggestions that the morale is down in the Proteas dressing room right now, having already lost the ODI series 1-5.
"I honestly don't believe that we are dropping our heads, or our body language is bad. Naturally when you put down opportunities, there will be some moping around, and you have to try and get yourself up as quickly as possible especially in a big game like that.
"You are going to feel a bit down and it's only natural, but in professional sport you have to find a way to get back up and I felt within a few balls we certainly did," he added.
Indian batsmen countered the short-ball plan and powered their way through the first six overs. They finished with 203/5, their highest T20 total against South Africa.
Duminy felt that given the good batting conditions, it was a chaseable target.
"They were 100 after 8 overs, so at that point you're looking at probably 220 or 240, and I thought the way the guys came back was exceptional.
"I was pretty happy with chasing 204... The mindset and plan was an aggressive one which was to try and take wickets and with that, there are going to be times when you leak a few boundaries," he added.
Duminy cited the example of Rohit Sharma's dismissal to point out that the short-ball plan did work to an extent. At the same time, he lamented his bowlers' lack of experience in executing it consistently.
He also said that South Africa need a proper plan B for the second T20I at Centurion on Wednesday.
"Where we've come short was assessing conditions as quickly as possible, which was the plan, again. If you look at how Rohit got out, that was a plan we put together and it came off.
"They (South African bowlers) are inexperienced in terms of international cricket, but they are very experienced in terms of domestic cricket and what they have done at domestic level. They have a high standard in terms of execution but I am not blaming that," he explained.
Dumiy said big totals in shorter formats is the norm right now and it is his team's batting, which needs to come good.
"You will leak runs in this format so even though we went for 200, from the way we started to the way we came back, there were lots of positives. If these plans had worked fully, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Plan B is something to be looked into for Wednesday," he said.
Reeza Hendricks and Ferhaan Behardien provided a set-up to stabilise the South African innings but it wasn't enough in a tall chase.
"They gave us a chance in the game. Especially in this format, with wickets in hand you give yourself the best chance to win the game. Those are the kinds of positives to take out of it and as teammates want to feed off that positivity. Hopefully we take that into the next game," said Duminy.
At the same time, he was appreciative of Bhuvneshwar Kumar's skill which saw the pacer pick up his first five-wicket haul in T20Is.
"Bhuvis lengths are something we can look into. But if you look at his first three wickets it was slower balls. He's a skillful bowler and he's been in this format for a long time," he said.
Dumiy promised a strong comeback in the second T20 in Centurion.
"You have to find a way to get back on your feet and fire again on Wednesday. That's all you can do at this level. You don't have many places to hide, you have to front up," he signed off.
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