Lloyd Burnard

Nothing wrong with Wanderers wicket

2017-01-23 11:23
Lloyd Burnard
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Cape Town - The almost farcical nature of Friday night's rain-affected hit-around at Centurion meant that the Proteas could come in and swing the willow at will.

The pitch was actually doing a bit - it was slippery after the heavy downpour - but the Proteas still blitzed their way to 126/5 in their allotted 10 overs - more than enough to secure victory in the opening T20I against Sri Lanka. 

Fast forward to Sunday, and a very different game of cricket unfolded. 

Batting first once again, South Africa were dismissed for 113 in 19.3 overs on a Wanderers wicket that, historically, provides a run-fest in both limited overs formats.

This time, everyone was deceived.

It took a few overs, but the experts in the commentary box eventually began to take notice of the fact that this was not your usual Wanderers strip.

It was slower, the ball was gripping a bit and, once the spinners came into the game, it took significant turn.

The Proteas, very quickly, were in trouble and it didn't take long for Mike Haysman to lead the chorus of chants suggesting that the wicket was not up to scratch. 

T20 cricket is about scoring as many runs as possible to provide entertainment for the fans who have packed the stadium, Haysman said.

The truth is that South Africa were undone by poor shot selection and a mystery spinner ... not the Wanderers wicket. 

Theunis de Bruyn, Mangaliso Mosehle, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo - all of those batsmen were out because they played poor cricket shots while none of the 10 dismissals could be blamed on the pitch. 

This wasn't Nagpur. 

The South African batsmen were simply under-prepared. They did not expect the Wanderers pitch to be anything out of the ordinary and, when it was, they could not adapt.

It didn't help that they were clueless against a wrist-spinner they had never seen bowl before.

To blame the pitch for what was a woeful batting performance is simply short-sighted. It takes away from how well the Sri Lankans bowled, and it makes an excuse for a Proteas top order that was perhaps still caught in the Centurion headlights. 

Had the Proteas showed application and an element of patience, then there is no reason why they couldn't have posted 160 or more. 

And, if they had done that, would there have still been issues with the wicket? Probably not. 

It is here where the lines in T20 cricket remain a little blurred. 

Is the sole purpose of this format to provide as much entertainment as possible through nothing but big hitting?

If that's the case, then we might as well have slabs of concrete prepared for every T20 game from now until the end of time. 

Surely there is more to T20 cricket and surely it is a format in which we can still give bowlers a fair chance. If a guy cannot hit a six over point by simply hanging his bat out at a wide one, should that be indicative of a poorly prepared wicket?

Sunday's game may have been short on runs, but it was full of entertainment. 

When things got tight at the end, as Sri Lanka and an injured Angelo Mathews struggled to get over the line, there was the type of tension that sport only ever dishes up at the business end of a cricket run chase. 

It was proof that you don't always need 'maximums' to entertain crowds. Sometimes the art of containing a batsman with accurate bowling and tight fielding can provide that rush too.  

There was nothing wrong with this wicket. 

Lungi Ngidi was bowling at over 140km/h, was getting good carry and was South Africa's best bowler by a mile. 

Without him, Sri Lanka would have got home at a canter. 

It was a wicket that rewarded good batting - ask Angelo Mathews - and good bowling, and that is surely something that should be encouraged in all formats of the game. 

It's been a good time for South African cricket lately, but when we play like we did on Sunday, it's important that we're honest with ourselves. And, honestly, our batsmen would have lost that match for us on any wicket in the world. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24

Read more on:    proteas  |  farhaan behardien  |  johannesburg  |  cricket
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