Biff becomes a problem
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – South African captain Graeme Smith’s individual torment as a batsman at the World Cup continued against minnows Ireland in Kolkata on Tuesday.
The big left-hander wasted a glorious opportunity to play himself into some sort of much-needed form when he seemingly backed up a tad too far as partner Morne van Wyk nudged a delivery to the leg-side and was run out to a direct hit as he scurried back to the crease at the non-striker’s end.
His dismissal for a tentative seven off 18 balls came just after television commentator David Lloyd noted that Smith was “clearly having a bit of a net” to try to regain his rhythm.
He had earlier seen his opening partner Hashim Amla, who has been in rather better nick at the tournament, perish for a quick-fire 18 after the Proteas had been sent in under leaden skies by the underdogs.
Yet Smith was unable to knuckle down himself after that setback – on a day when South Africa rested their attacking kingpin AB de Villiers -- as he became the second Irish victim with the total on 52 in the 10th over.
It meant that his CWC tally of runs only reached 110 after five completed knocks (top score 45 against West Indies in the opening match), at an average of 22, and his strike rate also well less than convincing.
Smith last recorded a half-century in one-day internationals eight innings back, and his meagre tournament total of seven fours says everything about his struggle to get the ball off the square in the key first Powerplay phase.
His poor performances are becoming a mounting issue in a campaign otherwise marked by his astute captaincy, for the most part, and the Proteas’ spirited quest to top Group B.
With De Villiers resting his apparently relatively minor injury, Morne van Wyk was promoted up the order to No 3 and perhaps even boosted his credentials to replace the captain at the top of the order deeper into the World Cup by playing briskly and enterprisingly for 42 off 41 balls before he succumbed to an injudicious stroke.
Although he looked strong on the drive, especially, Van Wyk was also dropped twice, on four and 23 before his departure so it is not as though he is breaking down the door at this stage to replace Smith as an opener in what would be a fairly radical measure – Smith has never batted anywhere below No 3 in some 170 ODIs.