Cape Town – You would have needed to be a fly on the wall to
gauge the extent of distaste in coach Gary Kirsten’s dressing-room verdict on
South Africa’s second successive comeuppance at the hands of underdogs New
Zealand at Kimberley on Tuesday night.
Boom ... just like that the Proteas simultaneously surrendered
the three-match ODI series to the lowly-ranked Black Caps, leaving only an
opportunity to salvage a smattering of pride from Friday’s now dead-rubber
affair at Potchefstroom (14:30).
South Africa really must try to lift themselves for that
one, because the unpalatable prospect lurks of a maiden home whitewash in a
bilateral ODI series at home – the nearest that has ever come to materialising
was probably when Australia, during their golden era, won 5-1 in 2001/02,
although that much longer, seven-game series also featured a tie (interestingly
enough at “Potch”).
As it is, the Kiwis will understandably and very deservedly
be crowing about their feat, regardless of whether the series ends 3-0 or 2-1
to them: it had been feared that they might have the proverbial one foot on the
plane after their genuine walloping in the Test series.
Instead all the known New Zealand limited-overs hallmarks of
grit and team cohesion, despite the relative dearth of stellar individual
names, have come admirably to the fore at the tail-end of their visit.
South African mastermind Kirsten, of course, is the type who
doesn’t necessarily have to resort to a loud voice and crude choice of words to
express his feelings.
I’m pretty sure I can tell you this much, though: he wouldn’t
have been dancing the Macarena after events at De Beers Diamond Oval, where not
even another healthy home-town crowd could coax their favourites over the line
after they had certainly been in a rosy position once to complete the business.
One or two of the television commentators also noted a
little acidly that there still seemed room for smiling and joking among the
Proteas’ troops in the pavilion despite defeat looming ever-larger in the last
few overs of the match.
Personally, I am not sure that should necessarily be
labelled a “couldn’t-care-less” sort of statement: must you automatically
resort to funereal faces on the balcony in times of adversity?
That said, it also would not have done a whole lot to dampen
any justifiable public and pundit concern over a lackadaisical trend that
appeared to engulf the South Africans out on the hot park in Kimberley.
They were absolutely annihilated, for example, by the Black
Caps for both commitment and competence in the fielding aspect, and linked to
that, in no small measure, was the host nation’s epic fail in the
Even before South Africa’s dubious record-equalling five
run-outs in this fixture – quite possibly the key game-swayer – I have often
felt in prior limited-overs matches that the Proteas are perhaps more prone
than most to rash risk-taking in cheeky singles or in trying to convert ones
into twos and the like.
That characteristic is more understandable in ding-dong,
frenetic climaxes to games, of course; much less so during situations when such
gambling isn’t yet really necessary.
Some of their ranks also require an urgent refresher course
in the schoolboy basics of running, such as sliding the bat in properly and
being more consistently, peripherally alert to possible run-out peril
As had been the case in Paarl three days earlier, when the
game was much more closely-contested in the end, the South African bowling
effort was collectively reasonable enough, by my card.
The only glaring concern in Kimberley, maybe, was senior
bowler Morne Morkel – who otherwise did exhibit a more acceptable level of
overall passion and “ticker” than certain colleagues in the match – looking
less and less convincing in the death phase of the New Zealand innings.
He was lashed for 19 runs in the 50th over, which
would really have got the tourists’ tails up for the task in the field to
follow: a target of 280 did suddenly look stiff for a fairly inexperienced home
Admittedly in that last over he did concede one extremely
unlucky, top-edged six to Kyle Mills, a New Zealand player who has a burgeoning
habit of getting beneath SA skins in one-day cricket.
Meanwhile you have to have at least some degree of sympathy
for the Proteas’ selectors, after they had named a pretty experimental squad
for this series, partly by design but increasingly -- as injuries and other
disruptions like the AB de Villiers ban gradually took a toll -- through
How on earth, for example, do you measure Ryan McLaren’s
suitability to a regular spot in the team mix?
The all-rounder had earned his best ODI bowling haul of 4/46
and scored a suitably brisk 33 (before seemingly being wrongly adjudged out) at
Paarl, but then in the follow-up at Kimberley – ironically the city where his
father Paul gave such yeoman fast-bowling service for Griquas for 18 years –
was spanked for 57 runs in eight overs as his lengths varied far too violently
and registered a five-ball two at the crease.
On the bright side, he wasn’t run out.
Hey, the Proteas will be looking to bank as many little
positives as they can for the attempted pick-up job in Potchefstroom, amidst
these slightly perplexing times ...
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