Pakistan v SA

SA set for Pakistan sweep?

2010-10-28 07:32
Rusty Theron (Gallo)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - Urgently needed, but seemingly still a few weeks away … some “super-league” opposition for the Proteas.

Thank goodness for India’s full tour of South Africa, in December and January, for an overdue, accurate barometer of where the team are really at in both Test and limited-overs international cricket.

The past few months have seen the Proteas play various forms of the game against, respectively, West Indies, Zimbabwe and now Pakistan, with victories tending to come dime-a-dozen for them.

It is not as if they have flattered to deceive: South Africa’s “intensities”, as they like to say these days, have mostly been commendable against these cowed foes, one of them historically a minnow and the other two lamentably fallen giants of the game.

But it was hoped that the visit to neutral United Arab Emirates to tackle the Pakistanis would at least present them with a sterner examination, even given the array of crises that have engulfed these particular opponents.

Instead the portents from the two-day, two-match Twenty20 international phase of the tour programme in Abu Dhabi are not too good for the remaining few weeks of combat.

Once again South Africa brushed aside Shahid Afridi and company with relative ease on Wednesday, in an affair that seemed uncannily a carbon copy of the previous night.

Of course tides can turn with unexpected rapidity when you criss-cross formats, but early signs are that the Proteas may go on to claim both the five-match ODI series and the pair of Tests to follow without being seriously extended in the UAE.

One thing was rather too clear on Wednesday: Pakistani cricket in general remains at sixes and sevens after its catalogue of scandal, bickering and the country’s political and natural disaster tumult.

There was some very audible jeering and booing from sections of the remaining crowd, too, as Afridi tried unconvincingly and almost flippantly to explain a second shambolic showing on the trot at the ridiculously bloated presentation ceremony.

Clearly all is not well in the camp and among long-suffering supporters, and not even the anticipated return of Younis Khan, a veteran of 202 ODIs and 63 Tests, is any guarantee of a sharp turn in fortune.

He ought to restore some measure of sanity, nevertheless, to a batting line-up which was the main Achilles heel in the T20 games – there was some unseemly slogging anew on Wednesday, and little hint of structure or formula at the crease.

But if Pakistan are set to unleash a seasoned musket in the hope of revival, don’t forget that the Proteas plan to roll out a double-barrelled shotgun imminently themselves, in the form of Messrs Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn.

That should only tilt the scales more strongly South Africa’s way, while commentator and former national captain Kepler Wessels made the point that the better team from the more lotto-like T20 fixtures really ought to prevail more convincingly as the demands stretch to 50 overs a side from Friday.

Still, the competence of Pakistan’s trio of spinners on Wednesday – Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal – did afford that embattled outfit a few shafts of light for the assignments ahead, and simultaneously serve a reminder to the Proteas not to stumble into a complacency trap.

That ought to be avoided, especially in the ODIs as the scramble mounts for squad places to the 2011 World Cup and some pleasant problems increasingly face the selectors.

For a second night in succession, for instance, the ambitious Warriors trio of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rusty Theron and Colin Ingram did their budding CVs much more good than harm.

Theron, especially, is making shelf-life a little precarious for someone like Charl Langeveldt, who once boasted near-undisputed best credentials in the country for death bowling but is being rather rapidly marginalised.

The younger man deservedly won man-of-the-match for the second T20 international, whereafter the pretty chilled, appealing character gave prize-giving MC Ramiz Raja a pearl of bowling wisdom: “Once you release the ball it’s out of your hands.”

Thanks for that enlightenment, Rusty. Some of us finally understand the great game so much better …

Read more on:    pvp  |  lonwabo tsotsobe  |  rusty theron  |  colin ingram

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