SA consistent... for rashness

2011-11-17 22:13

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - They may well find other methods to crack the Australian nut at the Wanderers and clinch the Test series all the same, but once again the Proteas have rather mucked up a golden opportunity to get on top of opponents by methodical, conventional means.

Scorecard after Day 1

Video Highlights: South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test Day 1

I suggested before this key second and final Test that South Africa tend to prosper in the five-day arena more on the back of various gifted individuals’ episodes or fits of brilliance than because of any truly impressive “blanket” team effort.

It might well be that imperfect aspect to their makeup that keeps them from monopolising Test cricket in the manner we’d all hoped they would after big-statement away series wins in first England and then Australia roughly three years back.

Yet again at the Bullring on Thursday, exasperating flaws as a collective came to the fore when a magnificent chance to take a strong grip on day one was rather frittered away - especially in an awfully lame three quarters of an hour in the curtailed final session when six wickets were squandered to an Aussie side who may suddenly be feeling altogether happier about life again after the nightmare of Newlands.

So much seemed stacked in South Africa’s favour as Michael Clarke predictably lost the toss under a glorious blue sky, and then not too long into the Proteas’ first innings Shane Watson pulled up crocked - hardly for the first time for this luckless cricketer - soon after taking a wicket.

It simply deepened the likelihood that South Africa would cash in royally at the crease, grinding the hard-pressed Aussies down in the Highveld heat, ideally batting for something close to five sessions and thus posting the sort of total to all but shut the tourists out of the mini-series.

Instead the Proteas scrambled - and that word is specifically intended in a negative sense - to 266 all out in 71 overs, easily failing to negotiate even three sessions and coming up some 40 percent short, you suspect, on their start-out intention for a satisfying total.

It is true that you shouldn’t be too quick to judge a pitch until the opposition have also batted on it, and there is enough current shakiness to the Aussie line-up both structurally and mentally to suggest that there is even a chance the South African first-dig effort will end up looking reasonably handsome.

But it is frustrating nevertheless that the Proteas folded quite markedly instead of building on at least two budding phases of the innings when foundations were either being competently dug, or at least tidily rebuilt.

South Africa narrowly won the first two sessions of the day, where they scored 107 and 106 runs respectively, each time for the loss of two wickets, but madcap events after tea only undid a huge chunk of the promise shown.

Maybe Chris Scott’s surface - the veteran curator was apparently especially happy with it beforehand - wasn’t quite as willow-friendly as was suggested at the start of play, with some batsmen seemingly surprised by a bit of a two-paced characteristic.

So if the staple theory that 450 ought to be on the cards was gradually downgraded to “350 might be pretty decent”, the Proteas subsided to such a degree that they couldn’t even sniff that outcome.

The plain truth was that, with at least four of their top six getting properly “in”, and half-centuries going the way of all of AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince, none of these players dropping anchor and actually staying there was a surprise and a disappointment from a home-team point of view.

It was the kind of innings that often hinted it might develop a speed wobble, even while hurtling along at a merry old tempo - sometimes very buccaneering indeed - and when it came, three wheels rolled off unceremoniously into the roadside bushes, as it were.

Of the top seven batsmen in the order, only openers Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph could convincingly be described to have fallen to good ‘uns, with a jarring cocktail of impatience and poor shot selection largely being the downfall of the others.

Fresh scrutiny is quite obviously going to start going the way of Mark Boucher, the seasoned wicketkeeper who is meant to marshal the expansive South African tail but succumbed particularly impetuously himself, with those below him mostly only confirming their vulnerability.

Certainly the present Proteas side cannot hold a candle to No 1-ranked England for an eight, nine and 10 comprising, say, players of the quality of Messrs Bresnan, Swann and Broad who are capable of not merely sticking around but also prospering rather handsomely at times, too.

Give the Australian attack credit for sticking to its guns, even as prospects of a really formidable South African total flickered at times.

But there have been and will be again many better bowling units in Test cricket than theirs fielded on Thursday - this experienced Proteas batting order should have mastered it, and they’d be deceiving themselves if they didn’t acknowledge it.

Dare one say it, something “ordinary” still lurks puzzlingly in the South African side, and it will be Gary Kirsten’s task to fathom over the next few months precisely why it does.

“At 240 for four you (should be) dominating the game,” Kallis reportedly said ruefully afterwards.

Whether mastery of this vital contest now swings damagingly the other way remains to be seen ...


  • Beulah - 2011-11-17 22:21

    because its fixed

  • tsvi.shain - 2011-11-17 22:36

    pretty good article

  • jcalitz3 - 2011-11-18 00:38

    The public must not go and support the Bok's and Protea's matches until they can prove that there houses are in order and they select the best teams. We keep on going to the matches in our thousands and what do we get nothing just inconsistent performances. Up and down all the time far more down than up. If the sponsors see that the public or supporters do not attend the matches they will think twice of giving out millions and millions of Rand's to support rugby and cricket

      Albertus - 2011-11-18 09:24

      Cricket is already there - only a "Farside" sponsor and empty stadiums.......

  • Nico - 2011-11-18 06:25

    As I watched the game I cannot think how we go and play test cricket and we bat as if we are playing one day cricket. I know modern cricket the batsmen want to dominate but shotselection is still part of the game? Hope we repeat the bowling demolition from last week!!!

  • John - 2011-11-18 06:32

    I suppose it has a lot to do with the SA psyche. We teach our kids that it is not nice to kick a man when he is down.

  • ross.hampton.cole - 2011-11-18 06:53

    Great article Rob, if only more journalists could do a great job like this. Pity about South Africa's crumble at the crease.

  • Albertus - 2011-11-18 07:10

    T20 mentality - moer en soek...

  • Kris - 2011-11-18 07:11

    Very good article, I enjoy your use of diction! I also completely agree with your points, especially the fact this team survives on individual efforts at times and fits of brilliance. A "Blanket" team effort as you say is completely missing. I was extremely disappointed with the after tea time session, and it is very plain to see there are many cracks in our batting lineup. So far our bowling is the stronger outfit in my personal opinion so lets back our boys to try and bowl the Aussies out for less than 300. Although I must say on this relatively batsmen friendly pitch, the Aussies SHOULD get 300+. They have the 'kop' for it, the 47 allout notwithstanding. But, I prefer to be positive and back our boys to bowl them out quickly. Dale Steyn is for me the most exciting bowler to watch in the universe.

  • Andre - 2011-11-18 07:28

    This exactly why they don't shed the chokers tag!! We should've atleast got 400 on this pitch! I have a feeling Aus will get 450+. Hope im wrong though

      Deon - 2011-11-18 08:19

      At least this was a great improvement on 96 last week, let us hope Oz also does not get 300 runs.

  • John - 2011-11-18 08:23

    Boggles my mind that Prince is selected ahead of JP Dumminy. Kallis bemoans the fact that at 240 for 4 they should dominate yet with all his experience he goes in and plays T20 cricket. For many years he was the best 3 on the planet because he could dig in and anchor one end. Now he fancies himself this swashbuckling cavalier. He is the older statesman in the side and should know better.

  • Pieter - 2011-11-18 08:51

    Honestly forget last weeks first innings, this is by far the worst batting display I have ever witnessed of a top 4 Test Nation...fullstop! WTF!!!! AT 240 WE WERE LOOKING LIKE ONLY BATTING ONCE IN THIS GAME! And what happened then? Don't deceive yourself boys, last week is in the past this is a new game and don't forget it...and a small message to you Mr Kirsten...forget about the tjommies in your team especially those behind the wicket move forward and get new blood in otherwise the distance between the Pomms and SA will just maybe get to wide...

      Paul - 2011-11-18 09:18

      Agree with Pieter and John. I really believe we should start investing in our promising youngsters after this Aussie tour. If not then, when? Our number seven batsman actually closes his eyes when he hits the ball... for pete's sake!!! And he turns his head away when collecting a half-volley when he keeps wicket. I wouldn't pick him for my club side. I say blood our youngsters now so that we have seasoned, confident Test players when we take on England next year.

  • Eldon - 2011-11-18 10:22

    Why oh why did we bat first? Surely after the 47 all out, we should of bowled at them just purely to put the pressure on their frail batting.

  • Ryno - 2011-11-18 11:11

    Time for Boucher to move on. He can't be in the side purely to keep wicket!WTF???

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