Proteas

Miller rolls clock back to ‘Jonty’s day’

2019-02-02 08:51
David Miller (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Was that the most influential limited-overs international display by a South African fielder since Jonty Rhodes in 1993?

Answer: quite feasibly.

The format may have been different - Twenty20 match, as opposed to one-day international - but David Miller’s electric showing in the field for the Proteas at Newlands on Friday went an awfully long way to securing their narrow, six-run victory over Pakistan in the engrossing first of three T20 clashes.

It had not been the best of matches at the crease for the middle-order finisher; just one of those days where a much-hyped batsman finds it hard to “middle it” in a short stay with only a few overs at his disposal.

Miller, almost expected to smack every delivery onto the railway line considering the weight of reputation he carries, was dismissed for 10 off 12 balls, without managing to find the boundary once in the late scramble.

But with Faf du Plessis (78 off 45 balls) and Reeza Hendricks (74 off 41) heavily to the fore earlier, the Proteas nevertheless posted a record total at the ground of 192 for six ... and were just able to defend it in the face of a determined charge by the plucky tourists.

That they did so was thanks in no small measure to Miller rising inspiringly above the general level of out-fielding - again erratic - by the host nation.

Fielders seldom win player-of-the-match for those exploits alone, of course, but this was one of those rare occasions where one did ... and it seemed an astute enough choice, frankly.

The flawless Miller bagged four catches in the deep, his hands repeatedly appearing like reassuring buckets as Pakistani batsmen used the long handle with necessary zeal in the stiff chase.

His quartet was enough to make him the first South African and seventh non-wicketkeeper worldwide to claim four catches in a T20 international (one gloveman has claimed five catches once, India’s MS Dhoni).

But that certainly wasn’t the end of it for his efforts in the field: two magically quick-thinking, target-hitting shies at the stumps accounted for both the dangerous Babar Azam and then also Mohammad Rizwan by run-out.

“Miller has certainly wanted the ball tonight,” was the admiring verdict of one of his former national captains, SuperSport commentator and 38th birthday celebrant Graeme Smith.

“He’s been constantly looking for work, looking to be busy … he works so hard on his fielding at training, too.”

By effectively earning a “six-for” in dismissals, if you like, the 29-year-old Miller would have brought memories flooding back to some enthusiasts of fielding cult figure Rhodes’s five ODI catches - still the world record in that landscape - against West Indies in the multi-nation Hero Cup at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium in November 1993.

Rhodes, albeit mostly operating in the inner circle where his exploits were most renowned, was similarly unfailing and game-influencing as a fielder on that occasion, including accounting for all of the West Indies’ heavyweight top three batsmen in the order: Desmond Haynes, Brian Lara and Phil Simmons.

South Africa won that slightly weather-influenced fixture, too, by 41 runs, after the Caribbean side were skittled for 139 in reply to the victors’ 180 for five in 40 overs.

Admittedly Rhodes had also contributed more fulsomely with the bat in that game, his 40 making him second top-scorer to Daryll Cullinan, who had registered 70 before retiring hurt.

But the Mumbai crowd some 26 years ago were awe-struck by his fielding to about the same extent as the Capetonian public were by Miller’s at well-attended Newlands on Friday …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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