South Africa arrived in New Zealand on a high note after a hard-fought home series win over India, but a punishing defeat in the first Test against New Zealand in Christchurch has served as a sobering reality check.
Captain Dean Elgar refused to make excuses, blaming neither losing the toss, the 10-day quarantine on arrival in New Zealand, nor the matter of head coach Mark Boucher facing a May disciplinary hearing over charges of racism.
But the stark reality is that his team lost by an innings and 276 runs before lunch on day three and must now win the second match of the two-Test series or suffer their first-ever Test series loss to New Zealand.
“Being a touring party, we are always going to be up against home conditions and rightly so,” Edgar said of having to bat first on a Hagley Oval pitch that had a nice covering of grass and offered plenty of assistance to the always relentless Black Caps’ pace attack.
“If the shoe was on the other foot, we would like to have utilised it to our strength.”
Opener Edgar contributed only one run in two knocks, but he was not alone in failing with the bat, with no South Africa batsman totalling even 50 runs.
The top four batters combined for a miserable 45 runs in total.
Without a specialist spinner, the bowling attack lacked penetration at times, though sloppy fielding and numerous dropped catches made matters worse.
“We were totally outplayed by a classy New Zealand outfit in all three departments of the game,” said Edgar, who acknowledged that the pre-Test lockdown as mandated by the government’s COVID-19 regulations was less-than-ideal.
“It would have been nice to have played a warm-up game but … we are a professional outfit and ultimately we need to be firing by the time match day comes.
“We have to respect the rules and regulations New Zealand.”
And the Boucher situation was not a distraction, he insisted.
“As a group we’ve worked through that and kind of worked it out already. I don’t see that as being an excuse in our camp.”
The second Test is on the same ground starting on Friday, giving South Africa a few days to figure out how to improve against a team that are not reigning world test champions through luck.
“Why we were lacking in that intensity department I’m still trying to process,” Edgar said.
“We should be a helluva lot more competitive out there. We’ve achieved a lot over the last few months as a unit and clearly what we produced out there the last few days is not a reflection of us as a squad.”