Johannesburg - South African limited overs cricket effectively came to the end of an era when the Proteas failed to reach the semifinal of a major ICC tournament for the second time in a row.
Failure to beat Pakistan in their Group E ICC World Twenty20 match at the Beausejour Stadium, St. Lucia, on Monday (they lost by 11 runs) meant that the Proteas were consigned to the foot of the log and had no chance of proceeding any further in the tournament regardless of the result of the final Group E match between New Zealand and England.
The tournament was an exact replica of the ICC Champions’ Trophy tournament in South Africa last year when the Proteas also beat New Zealand but nobody else.
“You can’t go on making excuses,” commented captain Graeme Smith afterwards in a clear indication that change is needed.
Gerald Majola, CSA CEO, said: “The early exit yet again by the Proteas from an ICC world tournament is a huge disappointment to say the least.
“Going into the ICC World Twenty20, the Proteas believed they had all the bases covered to get to the top regarding preparation, skills and support.
“The hardest pill to swallow now is that the squad was not marginally beaten on any of the finish lines, but faltered well short of their targets in the early stages.
“We now await an explanation for this from the team and management.”
In spite of losing the toss the Proteas got away to an excellent start when they had Pakistan three down for only 19 runs at the end of the power play overs.
Albie Morkel bowled the opening over in a change of tactics before the Proteas switched to the orthodox combination of Dale Steyn and Charl Langeveldt. The latter had an excellent match and deserved his return of 4/19 which included two ‘death’ overs.
Pakistan regained the momentum when Smith switched to an all-spin attack with Roelof van der Merwe included as a second specialist spin bowler at the expense of Morne Morkel in the only change to the team that had played the two previous matches.
Van der Merwe went for nearly 40 runs in his two overs and Botha had one of 9 in between as the Akmal brothers, Kamran and Umal, targeted the slower bowling.
When the elder Akmal departed, Shahid Afridi continued the onslaught while the younger Akmal raced to a half-century that earned him a well deserved man of the match award.
The Proteas conceded 92 runs in the period between the fifth and the 15th over and looked set to face an intimidating target.
Fortunately the seam bowlers produced their best ‘death’ bowling performance of the tournament, statistically at least, conceding only 38 runs in the last five overs to keep the target down to a very gettable 149.
As had been the case against England, however, the Proteas produced a very tentative batting performance in the top order and were always well behind the required rate.
There was brief hope when AB de Villiers hit the left-arm spinner, Abdur Rehman, for a four and two sixes in one over to reach his half-century.
The Proteas were still in the game going into the last five overs when they only trailed Pakistan at the comparative stage by 12 runs, but the dismissal of De Villiers, attempting a ‘Dil scoop’, virtually brought about the end although there was some defiant hitting from Botha.
The Proteas needed 19 from the last over from Saeed Ajmal but in the end did not get close.