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Cricket news - South Africa in race against time to level T20I series with Pakistan

Mark Boucher would be hoping his side finish the season on a high

Mark Boucher would be hoping his side finish the season on a high

A week is a long time in politics, but it's the blink of an eye compared to 48 hours in T20I cricket. At the Wanderers on Monday, South Africa squared their series against Pakistan with a superbly disciplined bowling performance. At Centurion on Wednesday, the same attack was hit to all parts as Pakistan's batters regained the lead apparently effortlessly.

"We went from an absolute high three days ago to last night," Mark Boucher told an online press conference on Thursday. "I think the realisation [has sunk in among the South Africans] that it's T20 cricket, and when things go bad they can go really bad. And it was. I'm not making any excuses. I don't know if we had got 230 if we would have won that game. We looked completely rattled when we had ball in hand and were put under pressure."

That was especially true while Babar Azam was scoring 122 off 59 balls, the key to Pakistan replying to South Africa's 203/5 with 205/1 to win in 18 overs. Babar's effort was the highest score by a Pakistani in the format and the highest made against South Africa. The visitors' total was their record chase. And that after they had been held to 140/9 on Monday.

"As quickly as that can happen, it can change around again," Boucher said. "That's the attitude we've been trying to drill into the guys' heads - that yesterday was a bad day but two days ago was a very good day. Execution on the day is important, but if you arrive with the right attitude and control what you can control - attitude, intensity, energy - things can turn around very quickly. As long as the energy is right, you're giving yourself the best chance to go out and win a game of cricket. Although it was very disappointing last night, we've been in meetings the whole day today with individuals and there seems to be a sense that we weren't up to scratch last night and we really want to put it right. Those are good signs for me."

There was a disconnect, Boucher said, between the way South Africa practised and the way they played. It was particularly evident in the field. "We are pushing the guys so hard in training sessions, and what's frustrating is that they are pulling off some unbelievable catches and the intensity's brilliant," he said. "And then ... last night the tone was not good. We just gave away runs. We've got to have better energy when we get into the field. We've shown in pockets what we can do. [On Monday] the energy was brilliant. We need guys to stand up. We're asking players why the intensity and energy isn't always where it should be. Because it's there when we're training. It's almost like we get onto the field and we take a step back."

Famously, Boucher refused to take a backward step during his days as one of the game's most fiercely competitive players. But inculcating that quality in others could take a lot longer than a week.

Boucher doesn't have that long. His players are due back at the scene of Wednesday's crimes on Friday for the last match of a series they can no longer win. It was Harold Wilson, the former UK Prime Minister, who is supposed to have said a week is a long time in politics. He also said: "Everybody should have an equal chance, but they shouldn't have a flying start." Clearly, he never saw Babar bat.