McKenzie hopeful of SA's lower-order rearguard

South Africa’s batting coach was hopeful of emulating their performance in Adelaide from four years ago © Getty Images

South Africa are not ready to head home just yet, despite having just a lead of 70 with four wickets in hand going into the fourth day of the Adelaide Test. “We’ve got two big days left and tomorrow (Sunday) is one of the biggest ones. There’s a lot of fight. We’re not on the plane yet,” Neil McKenzie, South Africa’s batting coach, said.

Those words may be dismissed as fanciful, but Australia would do well to look back to four years ago, when Russell Domingo, South Africa’s assistant coach then, vowed similar and was proved similar right. On that occasion, South Africa were staring at defeat on the final day, having stumbled to 77 for 4 chasing 430. They batted out a draw.

Now, they will need to bat with resolve if they are to set Australia a challenging target. “Hopefully Stephen Cook converts, which is what his track record shows he can do,” he said. “And then if Quinton de Kock can produce the Quinton de Kock knock that everyone knows he can do and has been doing, that would push us up past 180 and 200. If we can get there, we know we’ve done it to Australia before, where we’ve knocked them over so that will give us a lot of confidence.”

McKenzie was particularly happy for Cook, his former Highveld Lions team-mate, with whom he’s worked closely on footwork throughout this tour. “Cookie is just one of those hard-working cricketers; sort of old-school,” he said. “He does it his way. It doesn’t always look pretty but has a method that has worked for him. He has got nearly 40 first-class hundreds so you can’t mess with technique.

“Mentally he is right up there in terms of one of the toughest guys playing cricket at this stage. He has endured a lot of noise about his technique but normally what Cook does well is capitalises on starts and he has a good conversion rate. We hope that follow suit tomorrow.”

Even if Cook continues, he has only the tail to keep him company, but Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi have all showed they can contribute. Since it’s them that will have to do the defending, McKenzie believes they have enough motivation.

“We’ve got a couple of guys who can do damage at the back end and we have a bowling unit who are ready to go,” he said. “We’ll leave everything out there, whether we get bowled out early or whether we battle into the evening.”

He even joked South Africa could get enough runs to declare again. “That will be the best day of Test cricket ever,” he laughed, when asked about Faf du Plessis’ surprise declaration on the opening day. McKenzie explained the decision was based on what South Africa saw in the Sheffield Shield, when teams declared in order to make use of the ball under lights.

“It’s our first Test with the pink ball. We can only look at stats. We watched when the state sides played and both declared. You take a lead from what you see,” he said. “Commentators and ex-players were all applauding the decision and we stand by it.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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