Australia's vice-captain David Warner revealed a heart-to-heart conversation with his embattled opening partner Cameron Bancroft after the younger man's swift dismissal on the first morning of the Durban Test match, in a manner that suggested a mind working overtime to find answers to the vexing questions posed at international level.
Having been retained in the Australia side despite an underwhelming Ashes campaign in which technical faults around the off stump were exposed by the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Bancroft walked down the wicket to his second delivery from the precise Vernon Philander and edged behind. News of another low score for Bancroft added further weight to questions about his place ahead of the Queensland pair of Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns, neither of whom were selected for this tour.
While the dismissal looked ugly, it was indicative of Bancroft's attempts to deal with Philander's skill, and Warner said he made a point of talking it over with the West Australian after his own dismissal. "It's something that we talk about in our meetings about all different bowlers around the world, whether it's Vern, whether it's Jimmy Anderson," Warner said.
"It doesn't matter who it is - you always try and think outside the box and have a positive mindset. We do it at training. It so happened to be that he nicked one. He knows it was a soft dismissal. We spoke about it before at length. He'll do the same thing in the second innings and hopefully not hit it next time."
It is clear that the Australian team collectively wants Bancroft to do well, admiring his work ethic and durability, and Warner said he had sought to get a better picture of the 25-year-old's mindset as they watched the remainder of a day on which Australia struggled to dictate terms to the Proteas' bowling attack on a slow surface that also offered a hint of uneven bounce.
"We had a good conversation today, we sat upstairs for quite a while and I spoke to him about the way he approaches it, 'Do you feel like sometimes you have to go after the ball or is it nervous energy?'," Warner said. "He was quite insightful with what he was saying to me and I understood him and where he was coming from. He puts in the hard work at training and prepares as well as he can. You look back at the Shield [runs] he scored against us [New South Wales] at Hurstville, one of the best innings I've seen from him to date.
"You can't fault his preparation, it's just not happening out there at the moment. It will happen, you just need a bit of luck" David Warner on Cameron Bancroft
"I always talk to him about going back to that and thinking about 'how did you go so well' and 'how can you replicate that on the big stage here'. It's a different game, there's a lot of pressure about ... I don't think he reads the comments that you guys put up at all, but I know he's so focused on his preparation, you can't fault that. It's just not happening out there at the moment. It will happen, you just need a bit of luck in this game."
In contrast to the time Bancroft had to prepare for this match, having been part of the touring party that arrived in South Africa more than two weeks ago, Warner has had only a few net sessions in which to change gears from Twenty20 to Tests, following his leadership of the team that won a triangular series over England and New Zealand. He looked more or less at home at Kingsmead until also dismissed by Philander, and explained that he used a long session on match eve to build the "volume" he required.
"Probably hit a lot of cricket balls the last three days. You're playing cricket, it doesn't really matter what form of the game it is," Warner said. "I believe if you're playing 365 days of the year it's just about being mentally fresh and coming in with a clear mind and being decisive with what you do and my intent and purpose at training was purely just to get volume in and making sure I'm making the right decisions, getting forward and getting back and playing the way that I do.
"That's seeing the ball, hitting the ball and when I do that my defence is in check. The last couple of days I really got my volume in and we had an optional day yesterday and I came down and probably hit for about two hours, probably more than I've ever done in my career before a game. But I had to do that because I needed to get the volume in and that's how I switched it back on."
Looking at the day overall, Warner said he felt the tourists had lost two more wickets than they would have preferred, but pointed to the variation in the pitch as a sign that it would likely get harder to bat on as the match progressed. "We're probably two down too many. We didn't assess for reverse [swing] in the first day - not after 24 or 25 overs," Warner said. "I think the wicket is quite two paced.
"There a couple of short balls bowled which were obviously not getting up and then the odd one was taking off but it was - not that the bowling was slow, but it was slow off the wicket - so I think come day three or day four it's probably going to err on the low side and I think definitely spin is going to play a role in this game for sure."