The South African head coach has echoed the sentiment that is doing the rounds right now around the world. Proteas' inability to counter the spin prowess of the home side has prompted people to think, and Gibson to reiterate, that Sri Lanka at home are too good for this South African team.
After South Africa collapsed to a poor total for as many times as they've batted in the series, Gibson said, “The batting hasn’t fired. We got very capable batsmen, world-class batsmen in our dressing room and they are hurting at the moment because they haven’t performed well enough, You could put up your hands and say that Sri Lanka in these conditions are too good for us,”
Gibson believes that technical issues combined with mental demons against spin are hurting his batsmen and said, “They (Sri Lankan spinners) don’t turn all balls, some stay the course and that becomes very hard for the batsmen to pick, They constantly challenge our technique when some spin and some don’t spin. It, therefore, becomes a mental battle which balls to play which balls to leave and when to go forward and when not to go forward. In a two-Test series like this, we haven’t found the answers yet. There will be more subcontinent tours lets hope that we are learning those tough lessons when a series is going on and you are not playing very well.”
On an SSC surface that was turning from Day 1, South Africa decided to play the lone spinner in Keshav Maharaj, who bowled magnificently to pick up figures of 9/129. And yet, Sri Lanka scored 338.
Regarding the criticism for not playing the second spinner, Gibson said, “We played two spinners in Galle and we got 20 wickets but we didn’t make enough runs, We felt the batting was a bit short so we thought we’ll play an extra batsman. Looking at the surface before the game, it looked a lot more abrasive than the one at Galle and we felt we will get a bit of reverse swing so we backed our seamers on the surface.”
Gibson is still hopeful of a fight with the bat in the second innings.
“The one thing I learnt when I became the coach was what it means to be a Protea. It’s about fighting to the very end. That’s something I’m going to be telling the guys tomorrow, I would like to think that the guys who haven’t performed up to now would look at this as one more opportunity whenever the Lankans are bowled out or when they declare. We will try and bat for as long as possible and then see if we can make a game out of it.”
(Inputs from Wisden India)