Team Director Mark Boucher is drawing hopes from South Africa’s limited-overs performances in recent times despite disappointing results in Test cricket. After having taken charge of the side in December last year, Boucher oversaw a 1-3 Test series defeat at home to England followed by a drawn ODI series before the tour concluded with the hosts losing T20I series 1-2.

Not an ideal start by any stretch of imagination but the following limited-overs series against Australia brought some home. While the T20I series they lost 1-2, it was their vastly improved performance in the three-match ODI series that followed which made the difference.

The Quinton de Kock-led side blanked Australia 3-0, a display Boucher terms as “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“The exciting thing was in white-ball cricket, to see the guys grow a bit. We gave quite a lot of opportunities to youngsters and they started to gel as a team and not allow one particular guy to carry them through. Our performance against Australia was the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s not that it’s the finished product,” Boucher told ESPNcricinfo.

Having said that, Boucher hasn’t forgotten how poor South Africa were against England despite starting he Test series with a win. “If I look back over the summer and reflect on the team’s performances and progress, especially against England and Australia, I think it was quite disappointing to be honest. Especially against England, we didn’t perform like we wanted to perform,” he was quoted as saying by Cricket South Africa.

But under a revamped management comprising acting Director of Cricket Graeme Smith among others, the legendary wicketkeeper has seen some progress.

“In saying that I think we, as a new coaching staff, we asked some questions and I think we got some answers. Some were good and some were bad. We gave a bit of opportunity to a couple of youngsters and they really started to gel together as a team and not just rely on one particular guy to carry them through,” the 43-year-old said.

South Africa were to play a three-match ODI series against a strong India which would have been a perfect opportunity to build confidence and see how far they had come. However, the coronavirus pandemic ensured the series was called off.

“We didn’t get to play in India, which is unfortunate, because it would have been nice to have judged ourselves as a young side against them,” Boucher said.

Under a new captain in De Kock, South Africa tried out young players of the likes of Janneman Malan, Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Anrich Nortje and Kyle Verreyne who did step up on various occasions.

“I’m pleased with quite a few of the youngsters even though it was always going to be difficult,” Boucher said. “I think one thing that we sort of wanted to do as a coaching staff and management was to give opportunities to guys where we saw that we could maybe rest a couple of the senior players and in a way almost throw them into the deep end and see what they could do.”

“I was pleasantly surprised, which left us in a situation towards the back end of the season that was a nice situation to be in when a lot of guys were in good form. There was a lot of confidence. Our selecting was effectively coming from a pool of 20 odd players, which was a lot better than going into a side where you just go, ‘okay, well, these are eleven players that we’re definitely going to play.’ Now we have quite a few options and that is good for South African cricket,” he said.