SA in West Indies

Abject farce as SA sneak it

2010-05-20 10:00
Jacques Kallis (Gallo)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - What a tawdry, dog’s-breakfast excuse for an international cricket match.

In a shocking reflection of the volume of top-level cricket played around the globe these days, turning supposedly prestige occasions into humdrum bun-fights, South Africa duly disposed of the lame West Indies by 13 runs in the first Twenty20 international at the Sir Viv Richards stadium in Antigua on Wednesday.

I have further grave news: these teams are back at each others’ throats -- although I employ that expression most cautiously, because it ought to suggest excitement and zeal -- same time, same place on Thursday.

Dear, oh dear. Is this what the great game has descended into? No wonder it is increasingly mired in fresh whispers of match- … er, well, let’s say “impropriety”.

I have seen better pitches, better umpiring and even flashes of better, more urgent play at times in media games at brewing premises.

And for anyone who has watched the often rotund gentlemen of the fourth estate in action, that is saying something, believe me.

This felt like a hangover from the ICC World Twenty20 and it bloody well was.

In all the players’ defence, fixtures between proud (or in the West Indies’ case, once proud) cricketing nations do not deserve to be played in circumstances like this.

And the fact that only a couple of thousand people turned out – no guarantees they’ll be back for round two – hinted strongly that bantamweight-in-gravitas T20 may already be labouring in some parts of the planet for continued enthusiasm.

For the record, the Proteas did pretty well to get their Caribbean tour off to a winning start in a lotto environment.

Some established members of the South African side have come under fierce criticism back home for the country’s pallid showing at the ICC family get-together on the same shores, but Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith only underlined their ongoing value to the cause, summoning all their experience and nous to assemble a crucial second-wicket partnership of 73 in nine overs after batting first on what could best be described as a snakes-and-ladders board.

South Africa’s innings rather subsided to just under the 140 mark, but it was to prove enough, despite the pitch actually improving a tad as West Indies replied – Ryan McLaren and Johan Botha, with the ball, and AB de Villiers, revealingly, behind the stumps enhanced their credentials in the successful defence.

When commentator and former West Indies scalp-hunter Ian Bishop said the pitch was “unacceptable” for an international match, you could almost hear him fractionally stopping short of saying: “Call it off.”

The strip was rather more eccentric than it was dangerous, although every now and then it was the latter, too … ask Kallis, who had to theatrically bob his head out of the firing line of one delivery that spat up off a length yet actually cleared him by a distance.

Observers at the venue diplomatically spoke of the pitch as “corrugated” and having “a ridge at one end”. They spoke of it being two-paced – I swear it was nearer four.

Meanwhile loopy umpires Clyde Duncan and Norman Malcolm, not exactly household names on the roster of officialdom, earned the following, apt critique from veteran mike-man Tony Cozier: “The quality of umpiring here has been quite staggering.” And I don’t believe he meant staggeringly good.

Mind you, not even the commentators were exempt from the day’s buffoonery: at one stage a pair of them could not seem to distinguish between Botha and Alviro Petersen, and then McLaren and Roelof van der Merwe.

There were some wacko dismissals, like Smith effectively giving himself out, assuming he had been stumped off Nikita Miller and marching off when in fact he hadn’t. (By the time he’d got to the perimeter rope, it was too late to turn back, but maybe he’d just had enough of the big top …)

And when next do you expect to see both a wide and a run out on a free-hit delivery, sent down by Dale Steyn? Yes, even the world’s best fast bowler had a “yips” day on an occasion best toppled into a golf-course bunker and then filled in.

The cherry on top was the shamefully motley Proteas kit: there was so much fraying and flapping of names and numbers that it looked as if the team shirts had been victims of an explosion in a school science lab.

Horrible. And to think I stayed up for it.

Another night of this slop, anyone?


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