Proteas silence critics
Nagpur – The Proteas’ excellent win over India at the Cricket World Cup has not only put their World Cup challenge back on track, but also silenced the critics all too eager to dismiss them as chokers.
Video: Biff on beating India
Video: Five wickets in 16 balls from the Proteas main strike bowler
“I said before the game that the team has an opportunity to change the perception that we can’t handle pressure and we did that on Saturday night,” said satisfied skipper Graeme Smith.
He was speaking moments after his side that completed a very impressive fight back to beat the home side by three wickets on Saturday.
Less than a week ago, the Proteas’ World Cup hopes took a blow when they dramatically lost by six runs to a spirited England team.
“We learned some valuable lessons from the game against the English, but never panicked and kept believing that we have the team to do the business when it really matters,” said Smith.
“Hopefully we won’t be called chokers again soon, or at least not until we have lost another game!”
He said that he had not previously experienced anything in 169 one-day matches like the batting onslaught from Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag in the first 15 overs.
The pair struck the most runs in the first 10 overs to date in this year’s tournament, piling on an incredible 142 in front of 50 000 loud spectators.
“The noise in those first 10 or 15 overs was incredible and I had to use one of our umpire referrals just to get the guys together for a talk,” said Smith.
“We could still scarcely hear one another, but I told them this is what cricket is about and we have to show that we deserve to be part of it.”
Smith admitted that he had flashbacks to the Proteas bowlers’ struggles in the 438-match against Australia.
“One of the guys said beforehand that it was the fifth anniversary of that game and when Sachin and Sehwag were batting like that, I thought we would have to chase more than 400 again,” he said.
“Fortunately we kept believing that one wicket would make a difference and possibly lead to another few tumbling. But to take their last nine for just 29 runs is something no-one expected.”
Even so, Smith said that the winning target of 297 was still a major challenge.
“The wicket was not nearly as easy to bat on as India made it look at the beginning and we knew that big partnerships would be crucial.
“Jacques Kallis (69) and Hashim Amla (61) did brilliantly to keep us within touching distance throughout and what the rest of the batsmen achieved after that is something I will probably never forget.”
AB de Villiers (52) and JP Duminy (23) gave impetus to what was then shaping as a probable Proteas win, before Morné van Wyk’s innings (5) and a quick 23 from Johan Botha appeared to be in vain.
However, it was an unbeaten partnership of 21 runs off just 11 balls between Faf du Plessis (25*) and Robin Peterson (18*) – and 13 off just four balls in the last over by the man from the Eastern Cape – that took the Proteas to glory.
“I am the proudest of how the guys stuck to the task when the chips were down and then ensured that they accelerate at just the right time,” said Smith.
“There is still a lot of planning and hard work that will be required for the rest of the tournament, but for now we will enjoy every moment of the day.”
South Africa next play Ireland in Kolkata on Tuesday.