Proteas Injured in ODI Series, Literally

A look at where South Africa and India stand in the current ODI series two matches in.

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MATCH ONE: THURSDAY, 1st FEBRUARY 2018

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A commanding victory with India in complete control throughout.  Image from: indianexpress.com

The hype had been brought up by fans. Could the starting eleven for each game bring in an idea as to what team Cricket South Africa selectors could go with in the World Cup next year (provided no players take the dreaded Kolpak deal out of nowhere)? Personally, I was looking forward to this series, not only did I manage to get my Pink Day tickets early, but I could start looking forward to picking my dream eleven for the World Cup in England I am breaking my back to save up for… and I genuinely enjoy ODIs a lot.

South Africa won the toss and bat first in Kingsmead: a ground in which many believe should no longer host cricket matches. I won’t give my opinion on that anytime soon. Major loss to the Proteas is losing AB to an injured finger, therefore having him sit out for the first three games of the series. Although, it’s not injured enough that he can play golf… moving on.

The hosts’ top six gave the same problems of not scoring enough runs to have the lower order worry if the next number of runs is crucial enough to win the match. We had Morris and Phehlukwayo contributing more of a partnership as well as runs than de Kock did. At the end of SA’s batting innings, a decent 269-8 was made thanks to Faf’s 120. India needed 270 to draw first blood in the series.

The men in blue managed to chase the total relatively easily with five overs to spare and six wickets in hand after Phehlukwayo took two wickets of Kohli (112) and Rahane (79). It was not enough to fix the damage that was South Africa’s under-par bowling and less than impressive bowling. Kohli took win him a man of the match century which boosted his team 1-0 in the six match.

India needs to win the series 4-2 or better to overtake the Proteas in rankings to become number one.

 

MATCH TWO: SUNDAY, 4th FEBRUARY 2018

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Caught out! South Africa’s top six failed to get a start to result to produce a comeback win. Image from: hindustantimes.com

More bad news strikes the Proteas camp, with Captain Faf being ruled out for the remainder of the India tour because of an injured finger. While some Indian fans were rejoicing at this news, it made me say to myself: if they are rejoicing so much for Faf and AB’s injuries, it shows how much faith they have in their own side in these conditions. That thought quickly went out of my mind the minute this match ended.

Aiden Markram, whom has some experience captaining a national squad, was boldly placed as interim captain for the rest of the ODI series. Heinrich Klaasen, Khaya Zondo and Farhaan Behardien were called up into the squad should anymore injuries occur. Two changes were made to the eleven, with Zondo as well as Tabraiz Shamsi for Faf and Phehlukwayo.

India had won the toss, and opted to bowl first. If there is any evidence that the Proteas struggle with even the slightest hint of spin, this match would have be the perfect case study in any textbook. Silly shots were played all around, but also credit should go to the Indian bowlers for producing some movement in a pitch that is not notorious for a lot of spin. It managed to make the SA batters’ heads spin, which lead to the oh-so-predictable collapse of the Proteas seeing them at 107-6 in the 28th over. The top six had failed again. Miller had failed to get a good score again. He may average 50 in limited over games, but right when his team needed him to step up as ‘Killer Miller’ he failed to make it his time. 118 was the total scored before South Africa were bowled out, with five wickets going to Yuzvendra Chahal. A bizarre call had been made by the match referee to call lunch when India needed two more runs to win. One more thing that showed how fed up Proteas fans are with inconsistent performances could also be how fans left the stadium, and how many remained to watch the last two runs to be scored. India managed to steamroll the hosts, chasing down 119 with ease and only losing one wicket.

Currently sitting 2-0 in the series, India will be sitting pretty for the next game tomorrow (Wednesday 7 February at 1pm local time). South Africa will be wondering what went wrong within the team and what can be done in terms of having the right combinations. They will be missing de Kock due to wrist injury, meaning Klaasen will definitely play. To keep Miller in the eleven and not put Behardien in the mix will be a decision on blind faith in that the teams needs to bounce back in order to win the series and retain the number one ranking. Is this really our best effort with the bat and ball? If so, we could crash out of the World Cup next year before knock-out rounds even start. This lacklustre performance should be a wake-up call to everyone in the Proteas set up. Stop blaming the pitches, control the controllables. If you want to be world class, you must learn to adapt, adapt quickly.

 

Giddy Ngidi Gets Six on Debut

It definitely is a bowling partnership that Protea fans can witness for a long time – hoping that injuries stay away and consistency stays.

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An impressive start into test cricket for debutant Lungi Ngidi as he got a six-for, ending the match on 7-90. Image: hindustantimes.com

Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada lit up the fans of the Proteas with the scorecard come the end of the second innings, as they were involved in taking the last ten wickets South Africa needed to take an unassailable 2-0 lead into the test series. Many would have hoped that the wicket of Centurion would have been a traditional fast bowlers’ paradise; what was prepared was something not totally unplayable, but suited maybe for the spinners. Some would say it was suited more for the Indian batsmen more than the Proteas.

Not much to can be said about the second match. I personally found it to be lacking in the intensity that was shown in the first game. Still a very interesting one to watch, but the intent that India wanted to show may have backfired against them.

As the toss occurred, news had been that Faf requested his men to bat first as well as have Ngidi debut at his home ground in Centurion. South Africa made 335 all out, with Aiden Markram top scoring with 94 before being caught out. Hashim Amla scored second highest with 82 but was then run out. After AB had gone out, Faf was left to watch two of his batting partners (de Kock and Philander) fall cheaply before the end of day one. Day two started with Faf and Maharaj playing to make a good enough score, with massive help from the lower order to keep the tail wagging slightly to make a semi-decent 335.

With India batting just after lunch, they had been going steadily until Morkel took a great catch off his own bowling. Minutes later, a second had fallen as the debutant Ngidi had run Pujara out for a golden duck, leaving India on 28-2. Captain Kohli had to come and make a decent partnership with opener Vijay to put pressure on the hosts. Vijay fell just before the two reached an 80-run partnership. India had ended their batting innings on day three in the session after lunch, with Kohli putting in a magnificent captain’s knock of 153 runs.

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Intent and aggression was showed when Virat Kohli made 153 in the first innings. Image: kyrosports.com

SA were to start their second innings with a 28-run lead, and had all sorts of trouble losing two early wickets of Amla and Markram, needing Elgar and AB to rescue the batting with a decent partnership. Stumps was called early on day three due to heavy rains and bad lighting.

Day four started as day three had ended, with SA increasing their lead at a tenacious rate, with runs being scored as a snail high on sleeping tablets. The pitch was going more and more in favour of the bowlers, but not being particularly impossible to play on as the Proteas had made 287 all out, with AB scoring an important 84. The South African bowlers had a day and a session to take ten wickets and defend 287 runs for the series win.

The last innings in which India needed to bat to level the series proved to be quite the interesting one, as the battle between bat and ball had started as an intense one, until Rabada and Ngidi started making inroads within the last session of day four: Rabada had bowled Vijay for 9, and Ngidi getting KL Rahul caught for four. Ngidi had been slightly unlucky in getting the wicket of Captain Kohli in the first innings, but definitely had a delivery that had his name on it. The big wicket of Kohli was Ngidi’s for the taking, and was trapped plumb lbw for 5. Indeed a wicket he will remember for a long time. Stumps had been called on day 4, with South Africa needing seven more wickets and India needing 252 more runs for victory.

Many would say that day five was definitely in South Africa’s court after getting Kohli out. True, but they still had to get the wickets of Pujara, Pandya and Ravi Ashwin who boasts relatively good averages with the bat. Ngidi and Rabada kept chipping away at the wickets in good fashion to keep India out of the game for sure. Speaking on run outs, from both teams in both innings, there had been a total of five run outs. Of those five run outs, two had gone to Pujara, as he was run out for 19 in the second innings attempting to run three.

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South Africa will be hoping to keep up the momentum when they arrive for the final clash at the Bull Ring this Wednesday. Image: cricketaddictor.com

The man of the match went to Lungi Ngidi, making him the seventh Protea to be given this award on debut. The last match in the test series is to take place at the Wanderers on Wednesday the 24th of January.

My play of the match most definitely went to the two quicks in Rabada and Ngidi taking nine of ten of the wickets to win the match and series for South Africa. It definitely is a bowling partnership that Protea fans can witness for a long time – hoping that injuries stay away and consistency stays. Now the SA selectors have to look at the type of wicket at the Bull Ring and consider the eleven to go into that match to hopefully clinch a whitewash. Will they still make do with four fast bowlers, or bring in de Bruyn and/or in place of a quick?  Or will Maharaj be dropped? Will Markram be available for the last test? He missed fielding in the last innings after sustaining a quad strain. The starting eleven may change for the last game, but hopefully nothing too drastic in that they would want to keep their ruthless mentally and go for the whitewash.

Ottis ‘Give ’em Hope’ Gibson’s Influence

It may be early to give praise to Gibson, but I just think of how long it would have been until all the young players in the Proteas would have gotten their call-up if still under Domingo.

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Bring in the younger youngsters. Image: sportsnewsonweb.com

Now I personally did not want to speak on the appointment of Gibson as soon as it was announced. I am someone who does always want to see how a person adapts to a position, while they have all the necessary credentials after giving them that little bit of time. Pre-judgements are just not something I do. Hence the delay in my opinion on Gibson’s new position in the Proteas camp. How was he going to stamp his presence in this team? I wanted to wait and see until after the Bangladesh tour, but I couldn’t wait.

His appointment was one that did cause some debate as many did not know how a bowling coach would be anything but great after Russell Domingo was, essentially, given the boot by Cricket South Africa. His release then brought around the debate as to who would take his place. A local coach like Geoffrey Toyana of the bizhub Highveld Lions? Or an international coach like… an Australian? Naturally there were mixed reviews when Gibson landed the job ahead of Toyana who many had thought was a likely possibility.

So here we are.

I am so glad I waited to speak on his inclusion, and that’s because I noticed that there’s a change in attitude. I feel that the team that was booted out of the Champions Trophy that played the annoyingly safe brand of cricket has grown a slight bit of confidence and ruthlessness in their game. Albeit the Proteas are pummelling the daylights out of the out-of-our-comfort-zone Bangladesh side, there have been some performances by the team, and calls by the coach that bring back that essence of hope and depth in the squad.

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Future match winners. Image: alchetron.com

This tour was a great one for Gibson to explore with the upcoming talent that is in the domestic setup in the country. For him to go to a few Sunfoil Series matches really does show that he aims to take the Proteas to greater heights. He has deemed all the tours they play as preparation for the World Cup in 2019. Since his arrival, South Africa has unearthed a long-term prospect in Aiden Markram opening with Dean Elgar in the test side, and a definite choice batsman in ODIs. He still has age on his side as he is still 23. Him being the captain that steered his Under-19 teammates, like Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada and Jason Smith, to World Cup victory makes him a future prospect for a captain once the ‘Over-30 Generation’ in the squad announce their retirement. If you think he is still too young to be considered a captain, remember that he currently captains the Multiply Titans in the domestic competitions, and one former great captain of Graeme Smith was appointed as captain at the age of 22.

Wiaan Mulder is also someone who has impressed Coach Gibson as well, seeing as he made his debut at the expense of Wayne Parnell getting injured. Many think Mulder is too young as well, and I am one of them. However, I can see why Gibson brought him into the squad. He’s to soak up all the experience around him and use it to grow and get better. Honestly, his debut could have gone a lot better than it did, but in him getting a wicket is at least the first step to many more. I believe him, Dwaine Pretorius, and Phehlukwayo are the ones to watch in terms of them being game-changing all-rounders for the Proteas going further.

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Ngidi will definitely make an international comeback. Image: twitter.com

If I am on the same wavelength as Gibson, he should want to bring Lungi Ngidi back into the Proteas eleven once India arrives in the country. He had been off team sheets due to a back injury he sustained with the South Africa ‘A’ squad back in June. Upon his return to domestic cricket, he managed to take 9 wickets bowling for the Titans in the Sunfoil Series. He had made a huge shout for being called up for the Proteas during his stint against Sri Lanka earlier in the 2016 home season until an abdominal injury crept in. Now that he is back, Cricket South Africa has got to manage him well if we are to even get a glimpse of him and Rabada possibly bowling together against India. A bowling line-up consisting of Rabada, Ngidi, Philander, and a Dale Steyn that is 160% fit? Let your imagination run wild with that thought.

 

It may be early to give praise to Gibson, but I just think of how long it would have been until all the young players in the Proteas would have gotten their call-up if still under Domingo. We are set for exploring depth and getting the young guys ready for the day they make the Proteas eleven more frequently.

Devil’s Advocate on Player Selection

With the contrasting conditions in international cricket and domestic cricket, it’s easy to perform well in the latter.

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Let’s take time to think of something before discussing nothing. Image: indianexpress.com

As the strangely open-minded person that I am, I’m always having scenarios play in my head about things that could happen if they went which-ever way. That means that I’ll hear someone’s argument to something I totally disagree on and see that their way of thinking can make sense, in a weird way. Sometimes, this can be a disadvantage in having an opinion and not changing it.

Recently, I was having a discussion on Twitter with two people on where Quinton de Kock should bat in the test format. His attacking nature and ability to score runs when needed is one that is extremely valued and appreciated in the Proteas team. Now these tweeps I was conversing with were sure that he should bat at 4 because of his runs-churning way of playing, but I disagreed. He is too valuable of a player to have higher than 6 if the top order has a collapse, and then has no time to rest before going to keep wicket. Who bats, if Quinny is at 7, after him? Philander? If the top six only manages to get 175-6 in the first innings to put up a total, it will be QdK and Vernon trying to rescue the innings, for sure. But what if QdK was batting higher up and Bavuma went out slightly cheaply? Vernon would end up batting with the tail. I was convinced that he should bat higher up, up until this third test match against England. If we are to place him any higher, the highest should be 5 or 6. Him being an attacking player in a spot where you need to grind it out if the opening pair go out is a little too risky, in my opinion. If a collapse happens and he’s part of the top 4, there is a valuable player gone out.

Another thing I’ve seen amongst Twitter fans is how we (yes, I do it too, but I’ve tried not to) say one thing when things are going well about a certain player/players, but call for his/their head when they play appallingly. Now, I will say that I often eat slices of humble pie to feed a family of sextuplets, hence now I try look at things more objectively. One thing I’ve realised, clearer that ever, is that Sunfoil Series (four-day domestic cricket in South Africa) and international cricket are EXTREMELY difficult. And the reason a lot of the players do well there is because the players in that set up are, with all possible respect, are not international level yet which makes them a lot easier to face… especially if they have been playing for a club for a number of years. Hence the problem we face with Heino Kuhn now. He is extremely talented, and many people were calling for him to play in the test squad as far as last year August against New Zealand for the misplaced two-test series in South Africa. Now that he’s in the squad, he isn’t really making an overly amazing impression; there are calls for the young Aiden Markram to replace him. But, what if he too does not live up to our expectations of him and goes out for less than ten if he debuts in the last match of this series? Should he also get dropped because he’s not good enough? If not, should we not take the same approach when looking at Kuhn and be more patient?

The CSA selectors, bless them, are also now in the firing line for the performances of the team. For example; the selection of Chris Morris over Dwaine Pretorius is one that is being talked about often. Personally, I didn’t have any expectation of him in this series because I know how erratic and expensive he can be. Don’t get me wrong; the guy’s got pace and skill and bowls a mean yorker, good with the bat at the back-end of an innings, but he’s too all over the place when bowling, and expensive. And he also selected because of his ability to bat with the tail. In this series, he’s yet to prove it. What the sad thing is, I had a feeling he would perform like this in the series. So I was secretly hoping de Bruyn would come back in the side, as it wasn’t really fair for him to get the chop in that game or this one. It would have been extremely great for Pretorius to play in this tour, but one cannot guarantee for sure that he would have made many dents in the England batting line-up. We’ll never know, sure, but it’s pretty unfair to assume he would and then fans become disappointed with him and say he’s not international standard if he performs below-par. I am a very big fan of Pretorius, but we cannot be sure he would have been selected in the first eleven, let alone a key player in the line up.

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Good in patches, but Morris is not really good for tests. Image: cricbuzz.com

I can understand why CSA would not field more than one debutant in the eleven as opposed to Australia and England. However, what may work for other countries may not work us, too. You want to field your best eleven with players that have faced against tough opposition. With that being said, I get that you would want to see how new players fair in the international circuit, but when I think of that, I think immediately back to the Sri Lanka 3-match T20 series. We gave more than four guys a debut in each team, with Lungi Ngidi being the only permanent prospect to play for South Africa. We lost that series 2-1, and deservedly so. In those games, we had players pay poor shot selection, dropped catches, and missed run-outs. It may not seem like a valid example because of the cries for international T20 series to be scrapped, but it’s still something to think about in terms of selecting many debutants in a match/series. CSA should think a little more in terms of what they want from the team when selecting one, apart from just winning. Do they want to just win to heighten our chances at moving to number 1 in rankings, or do they want that to happen while given guys the experience they need for the future?

This article is not meant to pick and choose a side in the way things are being discussed, but more to say let’s look at both sides of the story before we cast major judgement. If the pros out-weight the cons, then great; if not, then okay.

South Africa Is Not the Only Team that Chokes

If India or England were in the same position, would it still be considered a choke? Or a poor display of skill?

Naturally, one would say: “yes, of course they are” Or even: “they have been choking for the past 18-odd years”. Personally, I despise using this word, but merely classifying the Proteas losing in any game as a choke annoys me. You cannot lose a match you were never going to win. For many people whom I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with on Twitter, a common understanding of the word ‘choking’ means to be in a winning positing in a match, but you lose after being inches away from victory. A perfect example is the chance South Africa had in the 1999 World Cup against Australia to advance to the final. However, a disaster of a run out between Lance Klusener and Allan Donald saw the last South African wicket fall resulting in the match ending in a draw. Australia advanced ahead of South Africa because of a higher net run-rate.

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Always so close, but so far away. Image from: youtube.com

 

Heartbreaking? Extremely. But this is not the only example of choking the Proteas have had in their time playing against international teams.

They recently played a three-match ODI series against England in which they lost 2-1: the first ODI series loss since the end of 2015 when they managed to beat India 3-2 in their conditions. The team had lost the first match by a heavy 72 runs, placing England a step higher than South Africa. The second ODI was a choke. I recall the commentator in that match stating that it was truly the Proteas’ game to lose. The last over saw them need seven more runs to win. A boundary would have swung things in their favour. Big hitters in Chris Morris and David Miller could not muster up a last dose of economy-raising batting to prevent a series victory for the English. In the end, England won by two runs and won the series.

I am not debating that South Africa don’t let the pressure get to them when it matters and they are in a winning position, but why is the term ‘choking’ only used whenever they lose? Is it because of the numerous chances they have had to get to the final and add more silverware to their cabinet?

Watching highlights of the matches from rain-speckled Champions Trophy this year, there were many teams that choked in games, but it was classified as the underdogs winning, or that the bowling and/or batting were not working together. Looking at the teams in Group A, New Zealand choked against Bangladesh which effectively knocked them out of the tournament. Four early wickets, including the wicket of Tamim Iqbal pushed the Kiwis forward to victory. Thanks to fabulous batting by Mahmudullah and Shakib Al Hasan saw them win by five wickets. Tim Southee, Adam Milne and Trent Boult being the main wicket-takers for their squad, taking three wickets each in the tournament, failed to defend 265 which is an above average score at Sophia Gardens.

Australia, technically, choked twice: first against New Zealand, and second against England. Their first game saw the match being abandoned due to the weather; however it was Australia who were the grateful ones as they were reeling at 53-3 when the floodgates opened with their two openers and Captain Steve Smith out. Although Australia had an unfortunate time in the tournament with two of their games being rained out, and one affected by rain in a losing cause, one would think that they would play their hardest against old foes England to qualify for the semi-finals. After a slightly questionable batting display saw them put up 277-9, it showed how much the Baggy Greens rely on Smith, Warner, and Finch to make runs. After those three went out, Travis Head failed to have a partner take the team over 300 as middle and lower order wickets fell just like the English rain. When they were bowling, Starc and Hazelwood put England on the back foot, claiming three wickets including that of their in-form batsman Joe Root. Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes managed to chase the Duckworth Lewis score and had England win by 40 runs, having Australia kicked out without winning a single game. The Aussie bowlers failed to capitalise on the three wickets they had early in the innings, especially with the undecided weather lurking around the ground.

Another incident of a team choking came a day after South Africa’s disastrous performance against India, with the winner of the Sri Lanka and Pakistan game going against England in the semi-finals. Sri Lanka had batted first and felt the wrath of the Pakistan bowling attack, as they succumbed to 236. Into the batting innings, the match was really one that could have gone either way, but Sri Lanka were favourites to win as they needed three more wickets to qualify and play against the hosting country. Dropped catches were aplenty as Pakistan managed to chase down 237 with three wickets to spare. Again, the Lankans had failed to work on the chances presented to them in order to win the game, but not one media publication called that losing game a choke.

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Hasan Ali: Chief destroyer in the Pakistan bowling unit. Image from: hindustantimes.com

Why is that dreaded word only applicable to when South Africa loses any game, regardless of whether or not they would have lost? Most newspaper headlines in Australia, England, and pretty much anywhere else in the cricketing world slammed the ‘choker’ tag and ‘South Africa’ in the same line. But the fact of the matter is that South Africa were never going to win against India by their terrible shot selection and senseless run-outs which gave their bowlers nothing to defend against a great Indian batting line up. As I stated earlier: you cannot choke in a match you were never going to win. But I will end with this scenario: if a match between Australia and South Africa were to take place, and the Aussies needing three runs off two balls to win a semi-final. If their batsmen failed to get the three runs needed, lost two wickets in quick succession and lost, what would that be called? We know it would be called choking if it was South Africa batting for a win, but what would be called if it was Australia? Poor play on shot selection? Unfortunate? Mediocre play?

Now I’ll ask again: Is South Africa the only team that chokes?

A Look In the Past, and to the Hopeful Future

We want you to win; we just want to see that you want to as well.

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Farhaan Behardien and JP Duminy trying to grab the chance at getting form in batting. Image by dnaindia.com

As heartbreaking as this subject is for South African fans, it does need to be spoken about, as that is what we are currently remembered for: falling under pressure short of making the semi finals, or winning the final match.

Indeed, they definitely need get that monkey off of their back and just finally win another ICC trophy and be rid of their “chokers” tag. Personally, I hate using that word, so this is the first and last time I use it on my blog.

 

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Seeing that the tournament was in a country where the time-zone are a far bit ahead, I did not get to watch the match… I was asleep when it started, then at school throughout the day during the match. But I do remember hearing about the final over from a friend who was live-streaming the game on his phone. After that match-winning six was smacked into the stands, there was a morose atmosphere around my school, with most of my friends who love cricket on the verge of tears. It was my busiest year; my final year of high school with stress being a massive factor in my daily emotions, but nothing had stressed me out more than waiting to hear what the result was for that match.

So what happened in that semi-final against New Zealand two years ago? Almost everything a team did not want to happen.

– There was rain which reduced the allotted overs to 43 thanks to that blasted Duckworth/Lewis system

– Our best bowler in the line up, Dale Steyn, conceded 12 runs in the last over… the number of runs New Zealand needed to win

– MISFIELDS GALORE:

  • de Kock missed stumping of Grant Elliott, who was unofficially deemed New Zealand’s hero for his efforts with the bat
  • AB missed a Corey Anderson run-out
  • de Kock missed a chance to run out Elliott
  • who can forget that collision involving JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien going for a catch of Elliott’s bat
  • AB missing the stumps to get New Zealand’s former captain Daniel Vettori

– From what I understand from reading the comments of the extremely upset South Africans after we lost that match is de Kock was slightly out of touch the entire tournament, but maybe we were looking for someone to blame and be the scapegoat

– Some guy who’s now taken a Kolpak deal was benched for Vernon Philander even though he was not fully fit from an injury. I will soon give my views on the transformation targets in South African cricket in another post.

Control things that can be controlled, they say. 99 percent of the atrocities that happened that day could have been controlled. We cannot state that because Kyle Abbott didn’t play, we lost the game. We can say that as much as we would like, but no one knows what would’ve happened if he played. You have to make do with what you have in the squad sometimes. The things we could have controlled in that game did not come into play and that is what we should say whenever we want to give the reason as to why we were knocked out of a tournament or lose a match.

 

Saturday 11 June 2017

Seeing that Sri Lanka managed to upset India on Thursday to win by 7 wickets, India will definitely be looking to bounce back from that loss. South Africa’s best friend, the Duckworth Lewis system, had returned in granting Pakistan a win over us by 19 runs. Poor top-order batting had brought the team down to 118-6 with David Miller contributing 75 not out to get us to 219-8 at the end of the 50 overs. When fielding, Morné Morkel (3-18) was the only bowler to take wickets and not give away many runs. And to make matters worse, Kagiso Rabada had started quite well in the bowling innings to an unpredictable Pakistan side chasing 220, only for it to be ruined by Wayne Parnell to leak one too many runs in the next over he bowled. If I could have altered our starting eleven, I would have definitely benched Parnell and put in Andile Phehlukwayo for his big match temperament. A touch expensive at times, but not as bad as Parnell, and he’s great with the bat too.

With AB slightly in doubt for the must-win match against India on Sunday due to a hamstring niggle, SA will definitely need to bring their A-game to the clash and show their fans and their opponents why they are the number one side in the world. As a side of this fantastic ranking, you cannot just hope because you are on top you will win every game. My request to the team is a simple one: play with the passion your fans feel for you, not because of your status and ranking. We want you to win; we just want to see that you want to as well.

With that being said, I think my starting XI for South Africa would be the same as it was against Pakistan, but taking out Parnell for Phehlukwayo, with Morkel opening with Rabada. Depending on other players’ fitness as well, I would really like to see Dwaine Pretorius get a shot. If de Villiers is unavailable, one could push Miller, Duminy and Morris up by one then slot Pretorius at number seven.

My predicting eleven for Sunday’s game:

  1. de Kock (wk)
  2. Amla
  3. du Plessis
  4. de Villiers* (if available)
  5. Miller
  6. Duminy
  7. Morris
  8. Phehlukwayo
  9. Rabada
  10. Morkel
  11. Tahir

Is T20 Cricket Ruining Actual Cricket?

Apart from the length of play, test cricket requires the skill of match temperament, consistency, and patience; a quality that some T20 specialists just do not have.

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Extravagant play and entertainment is apparently the priority. Image: cricketcountry.com

The fear that I have most days, if I’m honest. I’m not going to act all high and mighty like some cricket commentators that sometimes have that “holier than thou” attitude when they say that T20s should be eradicated and there should only be test matches. Nothing is wrong with T20s themselves, but the sudden influx of these leagues could really just be turning people off of the other formats: fans and players alike. I just sometimes feel that these leagues are good exposure for young up-and coming players, and for former internationals to stay relevant.

So, how many T20 leagues are there, you ask? Well, Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia, IPL in India, Caribbean Premier League in the Caribbean, Ram Slam which is now called the T20 Challenge as well as the Africa T20 Cup in South Africa, Pakistan Super League, the NatWest T20 blast in England, to name a few. There are numerous numbers of these leagues around the world, and there are going to be more within the next couple of years. South Africa are working on another T20 Global Destination League in order to prevent local players from going Kolpak, to get the interest and attention of new and more fans, as well as make more money by having overseas players coming in. Now wanting to bring in more fans to a format that’s known for entertaining the crowd rather than skill and putting on different performances is all good and well, but when these fans, assuming they don’t know that there are three different formats, come to a test match wanting the same entertainment they got in a T20 match with fireworks that went off after every wicket taken or six scored, they are in for a slightly rude awakening.

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It’s all about the theatrics, and keeping fans entertained. Image: indianexpress.com

Now this article is not to say that I detest T20 cricket, because I do enjoy it only when the Proteas play. The IPL gets very interesting after seven matches if your team is not Kings XI Punjab. There is plenty of entertainment in these T20 leagues, but it also makes the perfect platform for spot-fixing/match-fixing to take place. Corruption and match-fixing take place in international games, yes, but it appears more in these leagues. Cricket South Africa (CSA) had banned a group of their players in the domestic teams in August 2016, namely the bizhub Highveld Lions and the multiply Titans for their involvement in spot-fixing. The players involved, for different offenses but still the same case, were Thami Tsolekile, Gulam Bodi, Alviro Peterson, Jean Symes, Pumelela Matshikwe, and Ethy Mbhalati with their bans lasting between 5-20 years. The scandal took place in the 2015 RAM Slam domestic competition in South Africa. In the event of this, the major sponsor in RAM withdrew their sponsorship from the competition, which led to CSA having to change the competition name to the T20 Challenge after failing to find a major sponsor.

Another well-known example is in the IPL where two franchises in Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings were suspended for two years following some rotten and shady deals that took place in 2013 between players and ‘bookies’. People were arrested, tried, banned, and so were the two teams for two years. They are set to come back in 2018. I could go on about this, but I may have made my point. It’s all about money, to an extent. Jason Roy reportedly said that he was quite upset when he went unsold in the first round of the IPL auction, but now is playing for the Gujarat Lions team, which has a portion of players whom previously played for the Chennai Super Kings. Do players really base their self-worth and skill on an event that is so lucrative that it’s known for being lucrative? South Africa’s well-loved Imran Tahir was snubbed during the first and second round of the IPL auction despite being the number one bowler in the limited overs rankings. Thankfully, he was called up to play for the Rising Pune Supergiants. If that is not an indication that these leagues are not really about having skill and is all about money, then what is it about?

Moving onto the skill side of things, there is obviously a great difference between test cricket and T20 cricket. Apart from the length of play, test cricket requires the skill of match temperament, consistency, and patience; a quality that, forgive me, some T20 specialists do not have. I do remember in 2016, there was an avalanche of these matches being played, from the Proteas playing England and Australia in a space of three weeks in late February, to the World T20 in mid-March, to the IPL in April to May. By the time the ODI Tri-Series between the Aussies and the Windies around in the beginning of June, the ODIs felt like a test match: everything was moving so slowly, and not having much progression in the game, with the first innings only ending with 184 runs scored.  If I, as a spectator and cricket fan, had no real patience and interest watching the rest of that match, let alone the series, what would new fans who only know of T20s think in that moment? I think it can be learned and developed overtime, but most of these players who do not play so well in ODIs or Tests will have outstanding performances in the shortest format of the game, internationally or domestically. When I think of players that are like this of late, I think of JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, or even Wayne Parnell.

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Domestic standard, but not really international standard. Image: cricketnmore.com

There are probably more players in other countries, but those ones come straight to mind. If I had to be blunt, I don’t really think much skill is needed at this level. Commentators and fans on social media were praising Imran Tahir for taking wickets and being very economical during his spell. Is this something that is so rarely seen in T20s: a bowler who keeps their line and length correct throughout their four overs and continue to take wickets even though that’s what they are supposed to do? If the answer is no, then should the reason be because they don’t have enough overs to try and get the ball to swing in their favour? Andrew Birch of the Warriors in South Africa was the only bowler in the T20 Challenge in 2016 to take a 5-for in the whole tournament, while every other bowler was smacked silly around the park. This then poses my question: is this format only made to really favour batsmen than bowlers?

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There is a chance for female cricketers to get screen-time in the WBBL. Image: theherald.com.au

Although, there is one positive aspect of T20 cricket in the domestic scene, in my opinion. One is that the BBL, while having a competition for men, there is the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) which helps promote the sport and get more females getting into cricket, and more people to watch women’s cricket, too. The KIA Super League does this as well for female cricketers, international and in the domestic scene, and is open to players around the world. Women’s cricket has not taken off as much as men’s cricket has, but these tournaments are helping it get there and improve with time. We may not have to wait a bit long for that, because there is the Women’s World Cup coming soon in June this year.

To conclude, I do definitely agree that the format could send ODIs and test matches to an unexpected demise and decline in numbers. If these competitions keep cropping up everywhere in the year, it draws the international players from their duty in playing for their country as some of these competitions clash with their national duty. And sometimes, players decide that they would rather play at these tournaments than their country. The minute that happens to three, or more, players in every cricket-playing country, descend will hit soon.