The competition has now reached a stage where the Proteas know exactly
what is required of them. There can be no more poor performances. This is the
time when the team will be judged.
The win over the UAE was always a question of by how much. If the Proteas
had decided to play their physiotherapist and baggage master, they would still
have had the beating of UAE.
Which of course begs the question: Could the Proteas not have afforded
poor Aaron Phangiso a run against the weakest team in the competition
or was he always going to be just a drinks carrier?
However, truth be told the UAE were of no standard to use fringe player performances
as a yardstick going forward. It would have created a false sense of security
for the Proteas.
What I keep reading and hearing AB de Villiers say is that the Proteas
are the best team at the World Cup in Australasia. I like his belief in the
team, but my advice would be to keep that kind of talk to the change room and
to his close mates. This isn’t a time to be bragging.
It places unnecessary pressure on everyone and especially considering
his team really only got through to the quarter-finals by beating Zimbabwe,
UAE, Ireland and the West Indies. None of those sides rank in the top echelon
of ODI cricket right now. And the two games the Proteas did play against
meaningful opponents, they got beaten. So the less said the better.
Up to this point, the opening batting slot occupied by the out-of-form
Quinton de Kock and the number seven spot, have caused sleepless nights for the
Proteas management team. De Kock has now surely visited the last-chance saloon
and will be packed away to carry drinks for the remainder of the tournament.
His emotional pain will be immense and I believe it will take some serious work
for him to overcome this turbulent period of his young career.
As far as the number seven slot is concerned, Farhaan Behardien scored
runs against UAE and, in fact, played some really great shots much like he does
so regularly for the Titans. But unfortunately, whether one likes to admit it
or not, he has yet to deliver when it’s been most needed by the team with both bat
and ball. Now I know he has many supporters out there, and none more so than
his own captain from franchise cricket, but I’m battling to have a heap of
belief if he has to do it under pressure in the final to win us the World Cup.
The team selected for the next game has to be the one you are going with
throughout the rest of the tournament, unless of course there is a serious
injury or a major shift in tactics.
My thinking is this: Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw to open with Faf du
Plessis, David Miller and AB de Villiers next in to bat. I would select JP
Duminy at six and Vernon Philander at seven. Eight to eleven would be Kyle
Abbott, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir.
I have kept De Villiers at five and slotted Miller in at number four to
maintain a left-right combination. With De Villiers to keep wicket, he probably
needs more rest if we bat second.
The use of Philander at seven may seem like an interesting selection,
but it solves the extra bowler problem should someone pulls up lame or in the
event that there’s some juice around in the pitch. Moreover, he isn’t that bad
with the bat. Let us not forget that he averages 27 in Test cricket, which indicates
that he can certainly wield the willow. In the ODI format he has batted down
the order and, more often than not, bats in the ‘slogging’ overs.
Thus far in the tournament, the trend which has emerged has been fast
and secure starts immediately afford a team one huge advantage. The likes of
New Zealand and Sri Lanka, for instance, have benefitted massively in this
regard. Losing a few wickets in the first 15 overs slows the batting team down
tremendously and creates immense pressure. The Proteas need to start doing
that. Tahir in the middle overs has proved a revelation and I believe he will
continue to be. If the pitch turns Duminy can also play a role with his
In my opinion, we boast the bowling side to get wickets. It comes down
to how well they are utilized and what the strategy is. Against Pakistan, for
example, De Villiers got it wrong by bowling spin too early on. That said, I
can understand his thinking. He wants to keep Steyn in the pocket for later on,
because he isn’t sure that his fifth and sixth bowlers can do a holding job for
him every time. His strategy is to get through as many of the weakest bowlers
as early as possible. The opposite of that approach is to just rather get
wickets, because nowadays even the best bowler, more often than not, is hit for
a maximum at the back-end of an innings if top-notch batsmen are well-set. It
is a subtle mindset change but a necessary one, I believe. Up until now, the
current strategy simply hasn’t worked that well.
With Steyn, Morkel and Abbott bowling at 145 km an hour with some bounce
and swing, Philander nagging away on a length and Tahir then bowling as well as
he has been, any side will need to bat really well in all conditions to post an
unattainable score. Throw in some outstanding fielding and we’re in the box
seat, but I still wouldn’t want to tell anybody that.
Former South Africa international Pat Symcox played at
the 1996 Cricket World Cup, and is a self-proclaimed cricket fanatic,
struggling golfer and addicted writer.Disclaimer:
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