Cape Town – If the Proteas are to continue to be lumped with
the inevitable, history-based charge of mental frailty in broader terms, at
least have the decency to exclude their Twenty20 unit from such culpability,
GALLERY: New Zealand v South Africa Third T20
For the second T20 series in succession, the national team
have plucked back their honour from the very brink of the precipice, courtesy
of an astonishing three-run victory over New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday.
And in this instance South Africa won the tightly-fought
three-match series as a result, an outcome which apparently will see them nose
up to second in the T20 global rankings, with the Black Caps suddenly dropping
two notches to fourth.
It is hardly the worst development from a morale point of
view, considering that in seven months or so another ICC World Twenty20 is held,
this time in Sri Lanka.
In the final match of their last T20 series, the two-game
home one against Australia, the Proteas looked similarly dead and buried, but
thanks to freak eighth-wicket batting heroics from Wayne Parnell and Rusty
Theron, somehow got over the line to share the honours 1-1.
Let’s face it, for all the en-route imperfections extremely
evident on each occasion, these are anything but hallmarks of a team of
In the aftermath of a highly eventful, often quirky
encounter at Eden Park, many South Africans would have taken cheeky pleasure in
hearing someone other than, for instance, the late Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock
or sometimes also Graeme Smith say after a limited-overs sizzler: “When the
pressure came on we were found wanting.
“We’ve got to look hard at ourselves ... about how you put
The speaker in this instance was, of course, still-stunned
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.
And how refreshing, too, to hear one of the home-based
television commentators laud the Proteas in the following way: “Your boys did
it because you didn’t lose your heads.”
With a bit of luck, claw-back-from-the-brink performances
like this one will send positive currents through all forms of the Proteas’
game, and certainly provide a big tonic for the ODI and Test series ahead in
the Land of the Long White Cloud.
South Africa, after all, had looked so well beaten at
various stages of the decider, including right up to the end of the 18th
over when the host nation needed only 10 runs to prevail with six wickets in
But somehow established old fox Johan Botha and then an
unlikely “death duty” hero in Marchant de Lange conjured up cool-headed (for
the most part, anyway) respective overs to strangle the life out of the
once-chirpy New Zealanders.
Botha, who won the man-of-the-match award, only underlined his
reputation as the country’s best limited-overs spinner, and effectively
highlighted anew the mystery of why he saw no action at all during the home ODI
series against Sri Lanka.
As for De Lange -- playing only his third T20 match of any
sort and second for South Africa, do keep in mind – his three-run last over and
snaring of two wickets was an incredible achievement after the speed merchant
had travelled for 33 runs in his first three.
It seemed to confirm captain AB de Villiers’s enthusiastic
after-match statement that De Lange “has got the BMT”. (And yes, maybe we can
even excuse him now that potentially hugely costly no-ball in the frenzied
De Lange reminds very much of a young Dale Steyn ... fast,
loose and still raw but with such abundant potential in the eyes of discerning
followers of the game.
It is good that he is taking these educative, baby steps for
his country because it may not be too long before he is establishing himself in
all three major formats; we have already seen glimpses of what he offers in the
The strapping athlete is one of those pacemen who gets into
a high-pace groove immediately, very seldom slipping below 140km/h and perhaps
with the potential and bodily ability to test the 150-mark extremely regularly
in a year or two.
Let’s not kid ourselves: the elements of fortuitousness that
characterised both this win and the previously-mentioned other key one against
the Aussies at the Wanderers earlier this season still indicate that South
African T20 strategy and team composition remains quite heavily a work in
It is difficult not to escape a suspicion that the current
line-up is a little too loaded in favour of a wide array of bowling options, to
the detriment of a genuinely momentum-retaining batting order.
In Auckland, the Proteas again came up some 20 runs shy of
where they really needed to be in terms of a competitive total, and lost plenty
of oomph once designated big-hitters like Richard Levi (I always fancied he was
destined to “fail” in this one!) and the elevated Albie Morkel, unusually
occupying the No 3 spot, were quickly back in the hut.
In the field, South Africa were erratic in both catching and
throwing terms, whilst too many of the seam bowlers went through costly fits of
losing their line in a bad way, to the chagrin of Allan Donald.
Gee, though, pulling this one from the fire, under the
circumstances, is well worth celebrating ...
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