WI vs SA Test series
South Africa created 14 catching chances in the first Test against West Indies and took 13 of them
Notably, ten of the 13 successful grabs were behind the stumps: seven in the slips, two by the wicketkeeper, and one at gully. That’s the region in which South Africa dropped seven catches collectively against Sri Lanka last year and Pakistan earlier this year – five in the slips and two by the wicketkeeper.
He put South Africa’s previous lapses down to changing personnel in the cordon after the retirements of high-profile regulars. “We’ve lost the likes of Faf (du Plessis) and Hashim (Amla), and they played a huge part,” Ontong explained.
“You want to try and get your best slip fielders in positions two and three. That was a key area for us. Aiden and Wiaan were exceptional in this Test. It was a matter of getting them in the right places”
Mulder reacted quickly to pouch the chance off Kyle Mayers’ edge, off Anrich Nortje, which had to be taken low down at third slip, which he has likely cemented as his spot. “You want to try and get your best slip fielders in positions two and three. That was a key area for us,” Ontong said. “Aiden and Wiaan were exceptional in this Test. It was a matter of getting them in the right places.”
Ontong said the coaching staff identified Markram and Mulder as members of the cordon because, “normally good batsmen are good slip fielders, they have good eyes and good reflexes”. They then did specialised work to prepare them for the task: “It’s good to have Mark Boucher (as a coach) who has played a lot of Tests and stood behind the stumps. There’s some great input from him. We do a lot of one-handed stuff, reflex work to sharpen the guys up and so far the guys have responded well.”
So well, that Ontong couldn’t identify any areas that need improving ahead of the second Test on Friday and said South Africa would work to maintain the bar they have set. “It’s difficult to follow a Test match like the first one. We were brilliant in all three departments,” he said. “There’s going to be harder work behind the scenes to make sure we don’t drop standards.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent