Cricket World Cup 2011

'Flawed' middle order cost SA

2011-03-31 07:52
Jacob Oram celebrates after dismissing Faf du Plessis. (AFP)

Johannesburg- South Africa's 2011 World Cup campaign was fundamentally flawed by a suspect middle order, former coach Mickey Arthur has said.

Considered tournament favourites after a mostly storming run through the pool phase, South Africa crumbled under the pressure of a run chase against doughty New Zealand in their quarter-final, exposing all the wounds of past failures in knockout events.

Watching from Perth, where he is now the coach of Western Australia's state team, Arthur reasoned that the decision to choose JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Johan Botha in the middle had cost his old side dearly.

"People underestimate how difficult it is [in the middle order in the subcontinent]," Arthur said in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.

"Five, six and seven are your crucial, crucial batting positions in one day games, especially on the subcontinent, because you're invariably starting against a soft ball and invariably starting against spin.

"In the engine room at five, six and seven we had JP Duminy who's still a young, maturing player, Faf du Plessis in his first year and Johan Botha who is a bowler first and then a batter, and I think that cost us at the end of the day.

"In 2006-07 [when Australia won the Champions Trophy in India and the World Cup in the Caribbean], Michael Hussey was down at seven for them.

"In those conditions five, six and seven end up winning you games, and we didn't have any experience there."

Arthur's view was supported in the aftermath of the match by Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain.

"We were desperate to get into that middle to lower order; that was our whole game plan, do whatever we can to get down there," Vettori said.

"It was always about getting past AB de Villiers. Their top four has proven themselves over a long, long time. They've got fantastic records, and I thought if we could break through that, particularly getting down to No. 6 and Botha at No. 7 meant they had a longish tail."

Given that the captain, Graeme Smith, and the coach, Corrie van Zyl, have both chosen to give up their posts after the Cup, it will now be up to yet another leadership axis to pick the lock that seems to separate South African sides from Cup success.

"Until South Africa win an ICC event it's always going to be there," said Arthur.

"The monkey's almost become a gorilla now and until we win an ICC event it's always going to be there I'm afraid.

They've just got to get out there and do it. We've always been the most prepared and I remember in my five years, we could never, ever nail it right at the end, and that to me was one of my regrets.

"We got to No.1 in the world in both forms of the game over a period of time because we played the most consistent cricket, but there always seemed to be something missing when it became a knockout game, and I just can't put my finger on it." 



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