“I don’t think we are miles off. I said to the boys afterwards I think we were good for about 65% of the game,” Brand, South Africa’s stand-in captain said. “Obviously we have to learn pretty quickly at this level and it’s something we are desperate to do and to put it right.”
Between them, Brand, his opening partner Eddie Moore and one-drop Raynard van Tonder, scored 61 runs in six innings in the first Test. They were all making their debuts. Moore was bounced out in the first innings and drove a ball aerially in the second, Brand’s shot selection was uncertain against the moving ball and van Tonder was twice dismissed by Kyle Jamieson, who shaped the ball back in and tested his technique on the front foot. None of those things, especially among players who are new to playing at this level, have quick fixes but it wasn’t all bad. Moore spent 50 minutes in the middle in the first innings, van Tonder was at the crease for an hour and 23 minutes in the second innings and they did some work in protecting the middle-order, who all got starts.
On the other side of that coin, South Africa’s attack are searching for ways to be more incisive after conceding 511 runs in the first innings and 179 in 43 overs in the second. Both times, they had New Zealand in early trouble on 39 for 2 and 10 for 1, but could not capitalise. It didn’t help that they dropped chances off Kane Williamson and Rachin Ravindra, who went on to score 118 and 240 respectively, but that aside, Brand still hopes they can find more ways to take wickets with the older ball. “We were really good with the new ball in both innings. I understand this wicket might be a bit different but we just want a bit more options from over 20 through to the [second] new ball so we can dismantle that middle order. We’ve been building pressure but we haven’t found ways to strike with the old ball.”
Instead, South Africa have to make do with what they have and most of these players have one more opportunity to show what they can offer at international level. Despite how difficult it has been, Brand hopes some of them will take it.
“The Test match was really tough. On day three I was pretty tired. Dane Piedt said Hashim Amla told him that every day feels like a (whole) Test match when you are playing Test cricket,” he said. “But I have enjoyed every moment of it. I have learnt a lot about myself as a person and I really love being in this environment so hopefully I can put in a few good performances.”