Australia in SA

Proteas pay price for orthodoxy

2014-03-13 07:42
Cape Town - You wouldn’t roll out your vintage, lovingly-maintained Bentley or Aston Martin for a noisy hell-drivers’ night.

As it happened: SA v Oz - 2nd T20

GALLERY: SA v AUS - 2nd T20I

VIDEO: Domingo on SA'S defeat

So why, I and probably others are asking with tears in our eyes, would you ask that bastion of batting correctness and calmness Hashim Amla to go through the gross indignity of taking guard at the very outset of a drastically curtailed fixture in the already compressed environment of Twenty20 international cricket?

But that was what South Africa, in their wisdom, decreed was the right call for the seven-overs-a-side lotto against Australia at soggy, sawdust-strewn Kingsmead on Wednesday.

Amla is many, marvellous things and yes, the great accumulator has proved he can hold his own at the highest level in the game’s shortest format.

But when you slash even a T20 fixture by some two thirds, it stands to reason that the sudden, urgent need for “different strokes” requires ... well, different folks.

I would say it positively screams as much, actually.

Playing exactly like the pedigreed batsman he is - one who requires the liberty of at least a dozen or so deliveries to settle himself in and get a feel for the landscape - Amla duly looked uncomfortable and out of place before squirting a caught-and-bowled to Nathan Coulter-Nile to end his mini-misery at the end of the second over.

By then South Africa were already (although it might sound a trifle bizarre to say so) ominously behind the eight-ball as they ended over two of the micro-contest’s first innings on a less than princely six for one.

Only Boycott or Gavaskar in their obdurate primes would have been chuffed with that return, although back in the not-so-swingin’ 1970s they would never have believed that internationals would one day be determined over the course of seven overs per team anyway.

That Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis cranked up the tempo with some urgency and commendable respective power, not even being separated as the Proteas eventually hoisted 80 runs, could not mask an inescapable feeling that the first two or three overs had been a chance glaringly missed by the host nation and might come back for the old bite on the bum.

The inadequacy of their total was then, indeed, exposed as the Aussies later hunted it down with two balls to spare.

In fairness, of course, being forced to bat first in a match as shortened as this one only makes you a sitting duck nine times out of ten anyway, because so negligible a degree of “pacing” is required by the chasers; they can throw the bat at just about everything knowing that wickets in hand is unlikely to be a problem.

Rubbing salt in the wound of the SA strategic blunder was that the tourists belted a still stiff Lonwabo Tsotsobe - the big guy is more diesel belcher than three-litre turbo out of the starting blocks - for 21 runs in the first over of the pursuit alone.

You could firmly say the Australians were up and running in no uncertain terms in the reply, even if at times the likes of JP Duminy, Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell pulled things back quite smartly.

Criminally, South Africa lost this limited-overs match without blockbuster hitters like David Miller, the local hero, and Albie Morkel getting a knock: that’s a bit like going to the Mike Tyson fight in his heyday and only getting an undercard, as the main event goes curiously missing.

There was a time when the Proteas were pretty rightfully accused of rank rigidity and inflexibility in their one-day battle-plans.

That phenomenon has generally altered for the better - so much so that there have even been critics more recently who believe they try to be too cute and zany, almost by way of belated compensation.

But the wheel turned full circle once more as South Africa stuck too stubbornly to orthodoxy in their batting order for this enforced blitzkrieg.

For heaven’s sake, South Africa, when it comes down to “T7” sort of combat, crumple the intended script and hastily restructure it.

Pile your front-end batting with the heftiest smackers you’ve got, and simply go, go, go!
It isn’t rocket science, it isn’t too complicated.

Or is it me really missing something very badly here?

Duh ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ozinsa  |  hashim amla  |  cricket
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