Cape Town – One and a half extra overs ... that is what
South Africa effectively, and expensively, gifted India as they bowed out of
the ICC World Twenty20 at the semi-final stage in Dhaka on Friday.
As it happened: SA v India
Considering that they had the minor consolation of taking
the Indian limited-overs juggernaut – now seeking on Sunday a prestigious Grand
Slam encompassing the latest World Cup, Champions Trophy and T20 global spoils --
into the last over of the semi, it is worth chewing on just how damaging those
“freebies” might have been as they leaked nine wides.
In what was otherwise another tenacious performance by Faf
du Plessis and his troops, indiscipline in bowling was the primary cause of
In short, the difference between the teams may well have
been an additional over, given that the pre-match favourites conceded only
three wides, whereas three times that figure was posted by South Africa’s
Of course, given the extraordinary legacy of knockout-phase
failure by the Proteas at ICC tournaments, that inevitable “choker” lobby both
domestically and elsewhere will have their gleeful, slightly childish field day
Those of more rational mind will be far less inclined to
slap that label on this squad, who arguably over-delivered at the latest event
-- which still holds appreciably less gravitas than the 50-overs World Cup --
just by getting to the last four for only the second time at T20 level after
leaving our shores a little dishevelled in the format.
Remember that the Proteas were rather humbled at home by
Australia in a rain-curtailed series before departing for Bangladesh, and never
rated among the hot picks for glory.
Yet in many ways you could argue that South Africa ended up
being the best-performing “non-Subcontinent” outfit at the world get-together.
Regional powerhouses India and Sri Lanka, no great surprise,
contest Sunday’s showpiece, and the other losing semi-finalists were West
Indies – who nowadays have dreadfully benign home pitches and load their
one-day arsenal with spinners and strangling little medium-pacers in a massive
departure from the fearsome chin-music formula of old.
So the Proteas could at least say they had a better time of
it in the last couple of weeks in less-than-favourite conditions than long-time
adversaries like the Aussies, New Zealand and England.
As Du Plessis said with some justification after the
six-wicket loss to India with five balls left, “we’re a resilient bunch”.
That is a relatively indisputable, nice little gain, when
you stop to think about it properly.
While much of their cricket was erratic from a team
cohesiveness point of view -- only indicating how much further remedial work
faces Russell Domingo and the rest of the coaching staff in limited-overs terms
– one thing this bunch showed was steely determination and, more often than
not, composure when the chips were down.
That is a pleasant change from infinitely more powerhouse SA
sides down the years that have crumbled abjectly when silverware flickered
promisingly in front of them.
We always knew that the current group (both at 50-overs and
T20 level) represented a work in progress, and the big challenge now is to
fine-tune with some urgency and purpose in the many ODI bilateral series or the
odd triangular that will precede the World Cup-proper in Australia and New
Zealand next February and March.
The pitches in Australia will mostly offer good bounce and carry,
whilst the slower New Zealand ones should seam, and that automatically makes
South Africa rather more attractive prospects for success in both batting and
bowling terms than was the case in sticky Bangladesh.
There is no need for major, knee-jerk alterations to the
squad furniture, even if certain judicious tweaks may be wise.
At the World T20, JP Duminy (187 at average 62) ended his
own tournament-proper knowing he was second at the time only to blistering
Indian strokeplayer Virat Kohli for total runs scored – two batsmen from the
Netherlands were also ahead but they played in an extra, preliminary phase –
whilst in all of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Du Plessis and
David Miller, SA certainly have the muscle with the blade to do well in
Yes, the precocious De Kock had another slightly “difficult”
Subcontinent experience at the top of the order, but his wicketkeeping was very
convincing, I felt, and he is another who will prefer the quicker, truer strips
at many of the World Cup venues next year.
Don’t forget that there is still the chance that great
all-rounder Jacques Kallis will strengthen the mix at CWC 2015 if he can retain
sufficient hunger over the next few months following his retirement from Tests
and distracting passion for golf.
Let’s face it, apart from his batting prowess he is still a
wily old schemer with the ball and might have brought some calmness and sanity
to the effort in the field had he been in the ranks on Friday.
While his inexperience was understandably all too evident at
times, we saw plenty of mix-it-up promise both in the losing semi and before
that from the 23-year-old Beuran Hendricks: commentator Shane Warne was moved
to say that he was “not a fan of his haircut but definitely a fan of his
By the time the World Cup comes around, the left-arm seamer
ought to have matured a lot further.
Whilst joining the general lament over the errant lines and
lengths of the Proteas’ faster men on Friday, former national captain Kepler
Wessels also said South Africa had “gone away from the yorker method
altogether”, which seemed very costly against India.
It is in that specific area that a revisit of someone like
Rusty Theron, whose known strength is “full and straight”, may be a good way
The Warriors stalwart is still only 28 and probably deserves
more exposure than his tally of 13 limited-overs caps between 2010 and 2012
before injury got in the way to a good degree.
South Africa’s one-day pace bowling remains a curious mix of
hot and cold; perhaps deeper scrutiny is going to come in the next few months
for the specialist coach in that department, Allan Donald?
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