Cricket World Cup 2015

Proteas: Few grounds to gripe

2015-02-11 11:01
Proteas (AFP)

Cape Town - Some venues are dirty words in the lean South African legacy at World Cups.

Edgbaston ’99 must top the list, of course: that fate-sealing, semi-final tie with Australia in a clash SA needed to win goes down not only as a “worst nightmare” moment in the country’s cricket, but its sport in a much broader sense.

This writer recalls it with no less discomfort than anyone: I had already received a handshake and “good on yer, mate” in the Birmingham press box from an Aussie journalist - it’s their fairly trademark version of magnanimity in pending defeat - seated alongside me as Lance Klusener launched a salvo of booming hits to all but put the seal on the outcome.

But then came the infamous little Zulu-AD communication cock-up and I quickly, disbelievingly had to conjure up the SA equivalent of good grace in the midst of confirmed, gut-churning despair: it was probably along the stammering lines of “uh ... good luck in the final”.

There have been other such agonising occasions: Kingsmead in our own backyard comes to mind four years on from the 1999 event, when the Proteas misread Duckworth/Lewis requirements by one run against Sri Lanka as the KZN heavens opened and home hopes of advancement in the tournament were soggily squashed.

Or how about the National Stadium in Karachi, where a silky Brian Lara century for West Indies made all the quarter-final difference in March 1996 against a hitherto smooth-firing South Africa, who had strangely opted not to field premier head-hunter Allan Donald?

The good thing about the group phase, at least, of the imminent 2015 World Cup is that AB de Villiers’s current crop of South Africans won’t be playing at any venue, either in Australia or New Zealand, where prior World Cup torture comes to mind, or where they will have huge reason to feel they are especially jinxed in the 50-overs format.

Some might protest that the Sydney Cricket Ground, where they play one of their Pool B fixtures (against West Indies) and which stages two games in the knockout phase, contains some elements of “hoodoo factor” for the Proteas, considering it was where they exited their maiden World Cup in 1992 - that controversial, pre-Duckworth-era semi-final defeat to England.

But bear in mind that on that occasion South Africa could not really be branded architects of their own destruction: there was widespread sympathy that they had been diddled by the then-shaky rain rules, and their losing lap of honour was even more rousingly received by the public.

And as our survey below will show, the Proteas have also savoured a few notably good times at the SCG.

Apart from the pool venues in all likelihood doing little to irrationally disturb South African team confidence, De Villiers and company certainly cannot complain about their group make-up, especially as they deftly dodge both dangerous host nations.

In predicting probable outcomes of their six Pool B assignments, it was difficult - even in trying hard to keep parochial leanings to a minimum -- not to install the Proteas as favourites in every single instance, albeit that a hiccup or two along the way is quite feasible given the volatile nature of one-day cricket.

Here’s a helpful (hopefully!) Sport24 journey through SA’s pool roster ...


Opponents: Zimbabwe

When: Sunday, February 15

SA start time: 03:00

Ground established: 1950

Ground capacity: 10,000 (but variable)

SA record there: P2 W1 L0 NR 1

Best thing about it: In an otherwise unsuccessful showing at a four-nation New Zealand Centenary Tournament in early 1995, SA did earn a lone scalp (India) on their agreeable debut at this ground. Yes, in those days you could actually defend 223 for six at times, and with Messrs Simons, Cronje and Symcox to the strangling fore, India replied with 209 for nine to fall 15 short of triumph. 

Worst thing about it: Very little evidence to use; the Proteas’ only other game at Seddon Park, earlier this season against the Black Caps, was abandoned, which denied them a 3-0 series sweep, but even then they were ticking along nicely at 157 for the three after 30 overs (Quinton de Kock 80 not out) when the elements intervened.

Overall SA ODI record v Zimbabwe: P37 W34 L2 (win percentage 94.44)

Prediction: Zim couldn’t beat their bigger southern African rivals in five attempts on home soil in the spring. So why should they suddenly be able to knock them over in New Zealand? It won’t happen.


Opponents: India

When: Sunday, February 22

SA start time: 05:30

Ground established: 1854

Ground capacity: 100,000

SA record there: P9 W7 L2

Best thing about it: That healthy win percentage, as noted immediately above ... plus the far from unhappy fact that South Africa have won five of six ODI meetings against the Aussies there.

Worst thing about it: The fact that the lone Australian win against SA at the gigantic venue came in the most recent bilateral clash, in November – they chased down 268 with an over to spare, and Steve Smith walloping 104.

Overall SA ODI record v India: P70 W42 L25 (win percentage 62.68)

Prediction: On paper, SA’s toughest pool encounter. But if the Indian batting contains some big cannons, their increasingly pop-gun bowling – now even deprived of lanky Ishant Sharma’s ability to extract steep bounce on firm tracks -- is an area that probably tilts the balance against them. Sorry, smart money stays on the Proteas here, for me.


Opponents: West Indies

When: Friday, February 27

SA start time: 05:30

Ground established: 1848

Ground capacity: 44,000

SA record there: P13 W4 L9

Best thing about it: It is the scene of that seminal moment in SA cricket – not just beating hosts Oz in their first ever CWC appearance, but by nine wickets. Then in early 2002, following humiliation in the Test series, Shaun Pollock’s SA side bounced back commendably to secure the triangular VB Series trophy, winning the second final (a best-of-three affair) against NZ at this ground to ensure an early 2-0 outcome.

Worst thing about it: If SA traditionally beat the Aussies at the MCG, here it is normally the other way around in bilateral combat, hence the modest “4 from 13” overall ODI win record for South Africa at the ground. On the plus side, it could be a while at this World Cup – if at all? – before the great southern hemisphere rivals lock horns. 

Overall SA ODI record v West Indies: P57 W42 L13 (win percentage 75.89)

Prediction: OK, Windies did win one ODI in South Africa this season. But they also lost four. And even if moody Chris Gayle goes crazy, the Proteas have the collective batting superiority to go ... well, even crazier on the day.


Opponents: Ireland

When: Tuesday, March 3

SA start time: 05:30

Ground established: 1920s

Ground capacity: 13,000

SA record there: P2 W1 L1

Best thing about it: The only previous CWC match involving SA at the ground saw the desired outcome ... beating a then-stronger Zimbabwe by seven wickets in ’92, Kepler Wessels notching 70 as SA chased down 163 with some ease.

Worst thing about it: It was where the Proteas were perhaps most soundly beaten by Oz in the recent series, claimed 4-1 by the hosts. Aaron Finch blazed 109 as Australia went well past 300, and then SA were curtailed to 256 all out despite Hashim Amla’s own century.

Overall SA ODI record v Ireland: P3 W3 L0 (win percentage 100)

Prediction: This isn’t the Ireland of Paul O’Connell and company; Proteas to very comfortably avenge the Dublin rugby loss late last year ...


Opponents: Pakistan

When: Saturday, March 7

SA start time: 03:00

Ground established: 1900

Ground capacity: 50,000

SA record there: P7 W3 L3 NR1

Best thing about it: The Proteas won their last ODI appearance there, beating NZ by five wickets (Marchant de Lange 4/46 on debut) to seal a 3-0 series sweep in March 2012.

Worst thing about it: It’s where SA died their slow CWC ’92 death at the hands of the Kiwis, removing just a few days onward some of the shine from their fabulous SCG stuffing of Oz. SA could only scratch around for 190/7 from a full 50 overs, as military-medium customers like Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris bamboozled just about everyone except Peter Kirsten (90). Then Mark Greatbatch did the rest of the demolition job at the crease.

Overall SA ODI record v Pakistan: P71 W47 L23 (win percentage 67.14)

Prediction: Another SA win, even if Pakistan “pitch up” and ensure some nervy moments, at the very least.


Opponents: United Arab Emirates

When: Thursday, March 12

SA start time: 03:00

Ground established: 1999

Ground capacity: 33,500

SA record there: P2 W1 L1

Best thing about it: In their last game at rugby’s iconic Cake Tin, the Proteas saw off the Black Caps by six wickets in early 2012, despite having once been 35/3 in pursuit of a 254 target. AB de Villiers (106*) and Faf du Plessis (66) can revisit this time with pleasant personal memories. 

Worst thing about it: SA finished on the wrong end (by five runs) of a tense, weather-restricted contest against the same foes in 2004: it was a miracle the 38-overs-a-side game even took place after deluging rain, coupled with field damage a few days earlier from a David Bowie concert. Shaun Pollock also pulled up with an inconvenient groin strain after bowling one ball short of six overs for just eight runs ... yes, that kind of day. This is also a place where the Springboks are 0/6 in the game with the funny-shaped ball.

Overall SA ODI record v UAE: P1 W1 L0 (win percentage 100)

Prediction: Breeze for Proteas. Hope all UAE batsmen remember their helmets this time.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  cricket

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