Pakistan v SA

Proteas’ night of young guns

2010-10-27 07:47
Johan Botha (AP)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – South Africa provided heartening glimpses of the future as they opened their United Arab Emirates campaign against Pakistan with a thumping win in the first Twenty20 international on Tuesday.

It was a performance not entirely without blemish, as you might expect of a side who had benefited from a miserly one practice session ahead of an encounter in virgin territory for just about all of the tour party.

But the most pleasing aspect of the six-wicket triumph before an atmospheric crowd in Abu Dhabi was how an array of their younger players grabbed centre stage for a change and seemed to revel in that very fact.

Any hiccups in the game, after all, afflicted established, proven gladiators to a far greater degree, with AB de Villiers being bowled for a three-ball duck to an inglorious attempted pull off Shoaib Akhtar, Graeme Smith also failing and Albie Morkel having a traumatic opening over with the ball in which his line strayed violently to leg and he conceded four wides and a total of 14 runs.

But the “blemish” phenomenon pretty much stopped there, with the older Morkel largely redeeming himself in the remainder of his spell and his brother Morne overcoming two no-balls in his own first over to register a very tidy return of 4-1-18-1 in his comeback appearance from injury.

Even better, though, was the bowling stint of another slice of tall timber, the Warriors’ left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who chose his fourth T20 international appearance to register easily his best personal analysis of 4-0-16-3.

As captain Johan Botha correctly noted afterwards: “Lopsy set the tone for us upfront.”

There is something just a little frustrating about watching the 26-year-old from Port Elizabeth in action: you would love to see some more voomah to his run-up and, as his Cricinfo profile observes, he is “not in the Brett Schultz league” for pace, either.

And yet he is cultivating a nice little routine in not letting the Proteas’ cause down, whatever the format of the game, and calmly going about his job of placing the ball on the proverbial sixpence.

Cumbersome in getting his body down to the ball in the field and no great shakes with the bat, he needs to be constantly on top of his more specialist skill, but you can’t argue when he produces returns like this one at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium -- even if he benefited from some crazily cavalier Pakistani shot selection for a couple of his scalps.

Ah, Pakistan … until Misbah-ul-Haq eclipsed his score right at the death of the “home” side’s knock after they opted for first strike, it looked as though a seven-ball slog for 25 from Shahid Afridi was going to be their top score of the insufficient total (119 all out, a delivery shy of 20 overs) by perhaps 40 or 50 runs.

But that was partly because of commendable pressure and purpose in the field by South Africa, including two direct hits for run-outs from David Miller, who had been among those guilty of some lapses in this department during the Zimbabwe visit to our shores.

The Proteas’ reply wheezed a tad worryingly at 26 for three, with veteran head-hunter Shoaib – perhaps no longer in the best physical nick of his life, mind -- reminding them that they suddenly weren’t facing Christopher Mpofu with a gleaming cherry in his hand.

But this was an inadvertent blessing because it allowed another two relatively fresh-faced batsmen in JP Duminy and Colin Ingram (far more so the rookie, of course) to knuckle down for a middle-order repair job, something that South Africa seldom have to deal with in limited-overs cricket when you think about it.

Their unfussed and highly competent partnership of 66 in some 10 overs progressively eased the anxiety, to the point where finishing things off became a near-formality.

Duminy, who continues his welcome, forceful start to the summer, won the man-of-the-match award although it could just as easily have gone to Ingram or Tsotsobe.

Commentator Ramiz Raja, a 198-capper in ODIs for Pakistan, lauded the little Cape Cobras left-hander for the way he “works the ball off his pads against the spin, when it is supposed to be a dot ball” – it was one of the reasons both Duminy and Ingram seldom got bogged down in the hunt.

South African microphone counterpart Kepler Wessels, meanwhile, summed up the evening pertinently: “It is good news for South Africa, some young batsmen coming through in a pressure situation … and there are some (decent ones) left behind in the country as well.”

No rest for the wicked: the Proteas will aim to continue hugging the general improvement curve in the immediate follow-up T20 international at the same ground on Wednesday (18:00 SA time).


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