Johannesburg - Lonwabo Tsotsobe is riding around the country on much the same tide of public acclaim that was accorded Shaun Pollock when the latter took his final curtain call against the West Indies three seasons ago.
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The difference is that Pollock was riding off into the sunset for the final time while Tsotsobe has announced his arrival as an international bowler of high calibre in no uncertain manner.
Pollock, of course, was also carried by a 5-0 series win over the West Indies. That is something that will not be granted to Tsotsobe after last night’s disappointing loss to India by one run at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, that squared the MTN ODI series at 1-1 with three matches to play.
Had his batting colleagues given Tsotsobe anything like the support he got from his fellow bowlers and fielders, then the big left-hander would almost certainly have got the MTN Man of the Match award for the second match in a row.
In the end he had to give second best to India’s Munaf Patel who struck the last crucial blows for the visitors.
As it was, Tsotsobe took career best figures of 4/22. Not only did he do that, but he emulated Pollock, the only other South African to do it, by taking four-wicket hauls in back-to-back ODIs. Pollock accomplished the feat in 2002 against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Tsotsobe has now taken 16 wickets this season in 8 ODIs and has doubled his career aggregate which now stands at 31 wickets at an average of less than 20.
His strike rate is a wicket every 26 balls, while his economy rate is down to 4.3 runs to the over.
He has taken four four-wicket hauls, which is better than any of his current teammates.
It almost looked as though it would be Tsotsobe’s destiny to score the winning run as well, but that was not to be as he ran out of partners after taking a comfortable single to get off the mark.
The Proteas can look back on a match in which they bowled and fielded outstandingly well for 50 overs, and then batted badly for 33 overs, the exception being when Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram added 59 for the second wicket in 10 overs.
Smith didn’t deserve to be on the losing side any more than Tsotsobe and the rest of the bowlers. His innings of 77 (98 balls, 8 fours) was almost three times the contribution of any other Proteas’ batsman.
“It wasn’t a free-flowing wicket on which it was easy to play shots,” commented Smith. “You had to work hard out there. It was the nature of the game. You didn’t need to go looking for glory. You just needed a solid outing.
“If I could have batted through it would have been wonderful. I don’t think I gave my wicket away. I got done by a good slower ball.
“There was a lot of decision-making that we didn’t do well with the bat. We weren’t smart enough at crucial times with the bat. I thought we were great in the field and with the ball. We needed to be a bit more solid today.”