Is Newlands Really Cursed?

I felt it was only necessary to write this piece tonight because some things had bothered me about tonight’s game against Sri Lanka. While the Proteas batting was astounding, there was just something in their bowling line-up.

South Africa started the match off by batting first earlier this afternoon, and many argue that this was what they were supposed to choose in the Pink ODI three days before. After losing Hashim Amla for 1 early in the match, a rebuilding phase between Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis took place. de Kock reached his half century, but went out for 55 after him and du Plessis reached their 100-run partnership. du Plessis and AB de Villiers batted on, making a 137-run partnership as AB made his 50th half century in ODIs but was later bowled out for 64. du Plessis broke a record of reaching the highest runs scored by an individual batsman at the PPC Newlands stadium in Cape Town. David Warner of Australia is now second place for his 172 against the Proteas in an ODI series which South Africa won 5-0 last year. du Plessis was three runs short of matching, and possibly surpassing, Gary Kirsten’s record of 188 runs before he was caught out for 185. Kirsten’s 188 is the highest individual score by a South African in an ODI innings. The Proteas, today, posted a high total of 367-5 after 50 overs.

Niroshan Dickwella and captain Upul Tharanga put up a 139 run partnership before Dickwella went out for 58. A captain’s knock from Tharanga of 119 steady Sri Lanka’s ship on course for what was to be a stressful and interesting game for the ever quiet fans at Newlands stadium. As expected, once the two openers, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, and slight surprise threat Sandun Weerakkody were out, the infamous Sri Lankan collapse would occur. However, this match was turned on its head with that strong opening partnership, as well as useful contributions from Weerakkody  (58 off 51) and Asela Gunaratne (38 off 31) made it hard for Proteas bowlers to get the wickets needed quickly. But that is not what makes me a bit angry.

Yes, we won the game, but one cannot deny that the fielding woes from the third T20 against Sri Lanka, which won them the series, sort of came back to haunt us. An estimated total of four dropped catches proves that it does not matter your experience level, whether transformation targets are put in place or not, or your race: catches are the basic skill every cricketer should have perfected by now; especially with an ICC event coming around the corner. If I am not mistaken, in the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, there was a costly dropped catch by either Farhaan Behardien or JP Duminy (I think both were going for the catch) off Grant Elliott’s bat at a chance to get him out. Of course, no one really knows whether or not we would have won the game if he was caught, but we would like to think so. Elliott in the last over, last ball of that semi final game needed to smack the ball for four and assure his team a place in the final. He slammed it for six. Millions of South African fans were heartbroken. Catches win matches. The T20 team, about a month ago, managed to drop a near total of 7 catches in that innings. Funnily enough, at PPC Newlands.

So I guess the real question at hand is, while many great cricket moments happen at Newlands, is it really cursed in terms of not being able to catch? Or, are the Proteas not really able to play well and logically under pressure? All of our bowlers were horrifically expensive. None of the bowlers really managed to keep things tight, and not leak runs or boundaries. Just earlier in the match, commentators were gushing at how Imran Tahir only managed to concede two boundaries in the whole ODI series. He’s quadrupled that figure now. Another question is why Kagiso Rabada did not open the bowling. South Africa cannot be having lob-sided match performances leading up to an ICC event. Batting and bowling need to be in sync with each other from here on out. Please can the Proteas work on this before their last match of the series which will be in Centurion at Supersport Park, as well as before they fly out to New Zealand for a tour there.

But seriously: they have done well in other matches around the country. What is happening once they get to Newlands? Is it seriously cursed?

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