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AUSTRALIA V SOUTH AFRICA TESTS

Fresh faces energised us for Adelaide: Boof

28 November 2016

We all walk a bit taller when our new players receive their Baggy Greens // Getty Images

Our voices

Coach reflects on the impact of Australia's debutants, the performance of Usman Khawaja and the booing of Faf du Plessis

About the Writer:
 @darren_lehmann

Darren Lehmann is head coach of the Australian Cricket Team. He played 27 Tests and 117 ODIs for Australia. He became coach in mid 2013, guiding the team to the 2015 World Cup.

While losing the series to South Africa has been a bitter pill to swallow, we enjoyed some memorable moments over the past week that culminated in a great win in the final Commonwealth Bank Test at the always stunning Adelaide Oval.



It began when the team first assembled and we all got together for dinner at the home of our fielding coach Greg Blewett.

There's no more special time around a cricket team than when young guys come into the group for the first time, and the excitement they bring really is infectious.

Quick Single: New band in tune from opening rehearsal

Just like our skipper Steve Smith wrote, I hadn’t met Matthew Renshaw until he arrived in Adelaide that day, even though I had seen him around the domestic cricket scene and playing at that level.

One of the first things you notice when you have new people come into the set-up is they’re all different characters, and they all bring a different kind of humour.

Aussie crowd urges watchful Renshaw on

So we have to learn about the ways they make people laugh, because that’s so important in a high pressure sporting environment and the challenge is for us to learn as much as we can about them.

Because they probably already know a lot about us, given the way the international cricket grapevine carries information.

Then, when we turned up for our first training session you couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of Matt, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson as they walked through the dressing room, hanging out with their captain and vice-captain David Warner, just days before their Test debuts.

Having fresh faces around makes all of us feel energised, and you can’t help but get swept up in the enthusiasm that they bring, which is a great thing for all of us in the playing squad and on the Bupa Support Team.

Rookie Handscomb hits the winnings runs

That thirst for knowledge and the drive to be the best makes us all want to improve each and every day, and the fact they arrive on the scene with no scars from previous experiences at this level means they automatically bring a changed perspective.

One of the first things they learn is that it’s a big step up from state cricket to international level, no matter how well you’ve been performing on the domestic scene, and they were full of questions from the moment they arrived.

They were constantly wanting to pick the brains of the guys who have been around for a while, find out how South Africa’s bowlers were going to try and get them out, how we were going to target the South African batters and most of all a desire to get out there and play.Which is exactly what you want in your new players.

Then there was the special moment on Thursday afternoon when we all got together as a group, including the families and partners of the three debutants, for the cap presentations prior to the coin toss.

Rogers, Katich on presenting Baggy Greens

It’s now one of the great traditions of Australian cricket and a moment all three, and those who were there with them, will never forget.

To have former Test greats Chris Rogers, Simon Katich and Ian Healy presenting the caps and speaking to all of us about the pride of wearing the Baggy Green was something inspirational, and we all walk a little bit taller after those occasions.

But it is just one part of their development as Australian cricketers and the challenge for all of us now is to make sure they continue to improve and grow as international players.

Peter Handscomb came through with a really timely half-century when batting was tough on Friday night, and Matthew Renshaw clearly doesn’t get too worried about things if his second innings that guided us to a win is an indication.

A look at how the Aussie debutants went

He just goes and plays, and to see a guy who’s just 20 years old bat that way in his first Test is quite encouraging considering we’ve been disappointing with the bat over a period of time.

Nic Maddinson copped a really good delivery, which happens in cricket, and he will have learned a lot from his first Test that will hopefully hold him in good stead.

Then, to top it off, we capped a great team effort with a good win against a top-shelf opponent at the Adelaide Oval, which again showed it delivers conditions and atmosphere that can’t be bettered anywhere in the world.

Quick Single: More than meets the eye in Renshaw

On the evidence we saw, with more than 125,000 people in attendance across the four days, day-night Test is alive and well and here to stay.

They’ve got the pink ball right, and the pitch that Damian Hough produced was perfect – he is the best curator in the world, no question.

And there was a lot of debate about the Adelaide crowd and the fact there was a bit of booing when South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was in the action.

Du Plessis 'extremely motivated' to make a statement

I don't think it's necessary or good form to boo someone when they've reached a very good Test match century - I think that's an achievement to be applauded.

But from where I sat, it was no different to what we get when we go on tour anywhere in the world and you’ve just got to put up with it.

Of course, where I sat was in the newly named Barry ‘Nugget’ Rees Viewing Room, which he very kindly gave us permission to use.

SACA unveil Barry 'Nugget' Rees viewing room

He also delivered three or four of his inspirational speeches during the Test, and in a week that Nugget also received Honorary Life Membership from the South Australian Cricket Association, it was fantastic that we could celebrate a win with him.

There was also some discussion in the wake of the Hobart Test about me singling out four players from that game – Smith, Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – to say they were the only certainties for the squad we were picking for Adelaide.

That was interpreted as putting Usman Khawaja on 'notice', when in fact it was simply an admission that our batting had been poor while our bowling had been well led by senior players, and of the top six batters all places would be scrutinised beyond the captain and vice-captain.

Khawaja fires for Australia in Adelaide

Usman is an important part of our future, and always has been.

We showed that he has credit points in the bank because we picked him in the first Test match after what he admits was a disappointing tour to Sri Lanka.

But we know how well he plays at home and he’s always been someone we’ve looked at being our number three for a long period of time.

Like all of us, he’s just got to keep improving and he showed precisely that with his player of the match effort in Adelaide.

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