It’s Only All About the Champions Trophy

If you thought that the choker tag was haunting the Proteas after the first game, then you are dead wrong.

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The new number one ODI bowler, Kagiso Rabada, celebrating the early wicket of Jason Roy in what soon would be a colossal collapse. Image from: ©Getty Images

Just a general wrap up of the series:

Much to the contrasting result for South Africa, it was quite an interesting one.

The first ODI was won quite convincingly by the hosts for 72 runs, with Captain Morgan scoring 107 and Moeen Ali scoring a blitz 77 to propel England to 339 runs. South Africa could not keep the momentum going with their batting, as wickets were falling in quick succession, giving Chris Woaks 4-38 after eight overs. Amla and du Plessis did manage to put up a 112-run partnership, but it was no use as a collapse ensued after they went out. The visitors were bowled out for 267 with Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis being the top scorers with 73 and 67 respectively. This match just seemed like the Proteas were not in it, with Kagiso Rabada bowling 3 no-balls, and being a tad expensive. Cricket fans who love to hate South Africa were sitting at the edge of their seat, going blue in the face, getting ready to scream the dreaded “chokers” tag on any social networking site they could, but they had to hold out for the next game to see the outcome of that one.

Ah, the second ODI that occurred three days later. If you thought that the choker tag was haunting the Proteas after the first game, then you are dead wrong. This second ODI had most South African fans on the edge of their seat come the last ten balls of their batting innings. The English had, again, put up a score well over 300 – 330 to be exact. With the ball, the Proteas were quite expensive, with Andile Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris going for 74 and 66 respectively. The fielding was just as reckless, with a few catches being out down: Ben Stokes was dropped twice. A tough ask for South Africa, no doubt, but all that was needed for the chase to be successful was for a collapse like in the previous game to not happen again, and to not lose wicket early. Amla and de Kock managed put up a 50-run opening partnership, when Amla’s wicket fell after scoring 26, and AB and de Kock put up 96 more runs together. Maybe I can speak for everyone when I say that many people knew England was going to lose by the way Morris and Miller were batting. The two explosive batsmen put up 62 runs (could have been 4 more, but…) for the 6th wicket, with Miller ending on 71 not out. I explicitly remember hearing the commentator say that this was now our game to lose, and agreeing with him, as South Africa needed a run a ball to win and level the series. England’s bowling in the last over was tight, a wide was bowled but was not called, and Wood had managed to concede no more than four runs. England had taken an unassailable lead in the series, leaving the last game as a dead rubber. Remember the cricket trolls I spoke about earlier? They were having a field day on Twitter and Facebook.

Then came the third ODI. Dead rubber. To some, not important. To South Africa, a quest for pride and confidence going into the Champions Trophy. Fantastic bowling by Rabada and Parnell had England frowning and reeling at 20-6 after 5 overs into the game: the worst ODI starting total for any team. Johnny Bairstow, alongside debutant Toby Roland-Jones, managed to hold anchor to propel the hosts to 153 all-out. An easy chase for South Africa on a grassy pitch which was apparently not good enough for Eoin Morgan and his troops as he stated in a press-conference after the series. South Africa won the final match by 7 wickets; with Rabada taking man-of-the-match for his terrific bowling spell of 4-39. Cricket trolls, you ask? Still going nuts on South Africa not managing to win the second ODI.

An overall good series to watch, as we saw England’s complacency get the better of them in the final game, and South Africa’s selectors, some sports journos, players, and wonderful coach Russell Domingo not really regarding this series as important by constantly referring to this series as a warm up. Not really what it was stated as on the itinerary, but okay. South Africa have got to get their combinations right before their first match on Saturday 3rd June against Sri Lanka in their opening game of the apparently more important Champions Trophy tournament. Rabada was the only bowler in the SA squad to show promise as a wicket-taker in the series, but who will partner him in opening the bowling? Parnell? Morris? Morkel? Is Morkel even bowling well enough to not break down during an innings in a match this tournament? I guess what I’m asking is, is Morkel going to be completely match fit for the whole tournament?

My predicting starting XI for the tournament will look a little like this, pitch dependent of course. No need to really bat down the order, so I will not suggest any more than two all-rounders in the squad. That’s what the top six is for.

  1. de Kock (wk)
  2. Amla
  3. du Plessis
  4. de Villiers (Capt.)
  5. Duminy (I detest him too, but a spin option maybe)
  6. Miller (not one of my favourites, but he can be a deadly run-scorer when necessary)
  7. Morris
  8. Phehlukwayo/Parnell (if absolutely necessary)
  9. Rabada
  10. Morkel (provided he is indeed match-fit, he will be a very big help to Rabada in the opening overs)
  11. Tahir

 

A hearty congratulations to the England team for winning the series 2-1 over South Africa. As well as a big congratulations to Kagiso Rabada for moving up to the number one ODI bowler in the world, overtaking Imran Tahir, who is now in the second spot. The top three ODIs bowlers are now Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, and Mitchell Starc of Australia.

World Cup Memories Destroyed?

 

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South Africa have now retained their number 1 ODI ranking. Image from http://www.icc-cricket.com

I had tweeted earlier after the first ODI match against New Zealand that they were going to be plenty of heart attacks during the series. That happened three times in this series: in the first which had SA win with a ball to spare, in the second and in the fourth ODI. One was a close victory, the other was a one-man show of pure master-class batting for the Kiwis. Now that the ODI series is done and dusted, we are all still coping from what was a thriller of a series, I’m going to go through each South African player that played during the series, favourite moment of each in the series, and something that disappointed me.

 

ANDILE PHEHLUKWAYO (4 matches. 4 wickets. Economy of 5.26)

Not a bad series from Phehlukwayo. He had a bit of a rocky start coming back from injury in the T20 series against Sri Lanka, but throughout that ODI series and this one, there has been a major gain in form. Keeping things to just under five runs an over against a formidable New Zealand batting line is a good sign for him carrying on in the Proteas squad.

Highlight? His quick 29 not out in the first ODI to win the game for the Proteas. He showed massive amounts of calmness in a pressure situation, with two sixes that took the game away from New Zealand. Disappointed moment? He had the chance to win the second ODI in a similar fashion to the first, but bunting dot-balls in the final over instead of rotating the strike proved costly for the Proteas. Overall score: 7/10

DAVID MILLER (4 matches. 77 runs. Average of 25.66)

Many middle order wobbles happened for the Proteas in this series, where big-hitter Miller could have saved a sinking middle order at times and prevented quick wickets from falling. Already, I am not a fan of Miller’s inconsistencies in matches at all: they happen once too often. By that not happening, you would have had to rely on near tail-enders to save the innings (if AB was not out either).

Highlight? His 45 not out in the 5th ODI to bring home another series win and retain the number 1 ODI ranking for the Proteas. Disappointed moment? His dismal scores in the first three matches he played, which did not contribute almost any runs to the total on the board. Overall score: 4/10

QUINTON DE KOCK (5 matches. 200 runs. Average of 40.00)

Quite a good series for the young de Kock, as he obtained three half centuries in the first three ODIs, which was a backbone for the rest of the batsmen to add more runs to the total. Unfortunate that he went out for single-digit scores in the last two matches. And unfortunate that he could not convert his half-centuries into centuries.

Highlight? His 69 in the first ODI which got him to win man of the match when middle-order batsmen (JP Duminy, Miller, and Farhaan Behardien) could not occupy the crease long enough to gain the necessary number of runs to win to not let tail-enders kill the game off. Disappointed moment? The rare sighting of de Kock going out for a golden duck. Pretty unfortunate stuff, but his tendency to go out on soft dismissals will be a problem going towards England, and the Champions Trophy, if not looked into soon. Overall score: 7/10.

JP DUMINY (5 matches. 79 runs. Average of 15.80)

A lot of people have asked exactly what is Duminy’s role in the squad. My response is “a quick fielder”. His batting has been poorly since the series, with slight exception of his 34 in the second ODI. His bowling has also been costly, going for almost 10 in an over. His number 5 spot in the starting eleven is going to slip from him soon if he does not regain for as soon as possible: constant middle-order collapses are going to hurt the Proteas going into the Champions Trophy.

Highlight? Honestly, none. His couple of direct hit run-outs are great, but nothing to really write home about if you are not contributing with the bat. Disappointed moment? His cheap dismissals throughout the series. Overall score: 3/10.

WAYNE PARNELL (3 matches. 3 wickets. Economy of 5.47. 64 runs at an average of 21.33.)

He was benched a couple of matches Phehlukwayo and Rabada. Not too bad of a bowler this series, but his problem is that after one great game, he will become very inconsistent in the next game, conceding well over 30 runs in one innings. His tendency to leak runs could hinder his place going to England for the ODI series there or even the Champions Trophy. Did okay with the bat in hand, however it was a pity that his and AB’s 63 run partnership went in vain when New Zealand won that game.

Highlight? Not many come to mind, but the one that does come to mind is his partnering with AB in the fourth match as mentioned above. Some shots that many have wanted to see from Parnell were seen in that game. If he can bat like that all the time, that would be helpful to lessen the pressure on top-order batsmen. Disappointed moment? His inconsistent moments with the ball in leaking runs, but maybe going out for a duck in the second ODI even though we lost. Overall score: 5/10.

KAGISO RABADA (4 matches. 8 wickets. Average of 4.22)

What more can you say about Rabada? He’s a freak at the age of 21. He’s been fantastic the entire series, being the leading wicket-taker, and it is also great to know that even when he doesn’t play, the other bowlers will still take wickets and win games. However, everyone’s greatest concern is why he did not play in the third ODI: a knee niggle. Rabada could be getting overworked slowly but surely with the amount of cricket he’s played. What brings in more concern is that he’s going to IPL later in April after being sold to the Delhi Daredevils for R9.8 million. But he’s stated in a press conference that he’s in knowledge of how he feels, and we can’t dispute him on that.

Highlight? Bowling out Martin Guptill in the 5th ODI for 4 runs. It was indeed a corker of a yorker (see what I did there?) which was what South Africa needed to crack the game wide open. Disappointed moment? Only not having that speed of bowling he’s known for in the 4th ODI, but that could have been because he was coming back from recovering from his knee niggle. Overall score: 8/10.

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One all-rounder to definitely look out for: Dwaine Pretorius. Image from cricinfo.com

DWAINE PRETORIUS (4 matches. 5 wickets at an average of 4.34. 71 runs at an average of 23.66)

Pretorius has that potential of being the complete all-rounder alongside Phehlukwayo  in the long run if he were to get more chances. His best bowling figures in the series is 3 wickets for 5 runs is absolutely incredible, as well as that average of around 4 runs an over, and should be kept in mind for future team selections. He will be a real asset to the team if he keeps this form up for the Champions Trophy or the England tour.

Highlight? His clinical bowling performance in the third ODI in what was a wicket fest for all Proteas bowlers. In that game, he had an economy rate of 0.66. Disappointed moment? I think he was rather unlucky to not get a wicket in the forth ODI, but his bowling was a little bit off than the previous game. I would have liked him to get more runs in the third game as well to back up a fantastic display of an all-rounder. If anything, Pretorius will get better in time. Overall score: 7/10.

HASHIM AMLA (100 runs. Average of 20.00)

Unfortunately not a great series by Amla his time, as his average is quite low and he went out by very soft dismissals throughout the series. I, by no means, think he should be dropped. He is an integral part of opening the innings with de Kock and the two work fantastically together. I absolutely loved what Rabada had to say to journalists that asked about Amla’s recent form slump. He said “Amla is not a robot. He knows what he needs to do and what he needs to improve on in order to get better. He’s not going to be perfect all the time”. Personally, I think that quote sums up any doubt of his form, as he knows what he needs to do.

Highlight? Not really many again, but maybe his 40-run contribution in the fourth game with added to a defendable (but not defended) total of 279. It was the first innings in the series where he was quite close to converting it to a half century. Disappointed moment? Similar to de Kock, there were just too many soft dismissals. The softest dismissal seen was in the fifth ODI when he hit the ball right into the hands of Mitchell Santner at cover. He looked on song to get a high total in that game. Overall score: 5/10.

FAF DU PLESSIS (5 matches. 179 runs at an average of 44.75)

Luckily for disgruntled Faf fans who want him to have the captaincy of all three formats, he will be captaining the test side against the Kiwis from the 7th of March. His batting this series was one that more consistent, with him getting two scores over 50. His 51 in the fifth ODI steered SA on course to victory with soft dismissals, excluding AB, happening around him. He is becoming one of the greats slowly but surely.

Highlight? His crucial half-century in the fifth ODI as mentioned above. Disappointed moment? A dropped catch of Martin Guptill in the fourth ODI in what would have been a fantastic catch by him which would, maybe, have given the Proteas a chance at victory. Overall score: 7/10.

IMRAN TAHIR (5 matches. 6 wickets. Economy rate of 4.78)

Not a dire series for Tahir. He was unlucky to not get more wickets against the Kiwis, but still a near squeaky clean economy rate. His best figures of 2-14 was quite a highlight. Not much to say, other than that he a fantastic bowler and has a fighting shot at winning matches for South Africa in the Champions Trophy.

Highlight? Apart from his celebrations that have him running more than his run-up, his bowling throughout the series has been absolutely brilliant. He was the second highest wicket taker, two short of Rabada’s eight. Disappointed moments? If you can think of any, do tweet me and let me know: I couldn’t really point anything out. Overall score: 7/10.

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A testing series win for the Proteas after whitewashing Sri Lanka. Image from cricketcountry.com

CHRIS MORRIS (4 matches. 5 wickets at an average of 5.94. 51 runs at an average of 17.00)

Started the series quite well with the ball in hand, as he even managed to get four wickets in the rain-reduced first ODI. However, a horrid display of death-bowling saw his economy rate go up, and 25 runs in the last over of the game being gained by two tail-end batsmen. After that game, Morris has been similar to Parnell in slight inconsistency and leaking runs where it can be controlled. His batting has been in an almost T20-style aggression. Whether he is trying to repeat his heroics of Pink Day in South Africa against the English in early 2016 could be a factor, but he is still a good batsman to have when the top order fails to contribute runs.

Highlight? His bowling figures of 4-62 in the first game was almost a deciding factor as to who would win that match. Disappointed moment? As mentioned above, his disappointing death bowling in the first ODI as he managed to concede more runs towards the backend of the innings instead of cleaning up the tail. Overall score: 6/10.

AB DE VILLIERS (5 matches. 262 runs at an average of 87.33)

The leading run-scorer in the series, winning captain in three matches, it was just a great series for de Villiers. He has batted his team out of trouble most of the time, including his 85 in the third ODI where South Africa thumped the Kiwis by 159 runs, thanks to fantastic bowling. He has also become the fastest batsmen to 9000 runs as he reached it in 208 innings. However, the number of times he had to pull the Proteas out of trouble is concerning, considering he’s pulled out the test series that starts soon. Will he be terribly missed there?

Highlight? His fantastic sixes all around the park, and his 85 in the third ODI were great, but the biggest highlight may have been when the DJ at the stadium in Seddon Park, Hamilton decided to play AB’s song Maak Jou Dromme Waar. Not a personal favourite for me, but quite hilarious to witness. Disappointed moment? It was an unfortunate way to get out the way he did in the decider: the ball brushing past his glove and it carrying through to New Zealand keeper, Luke Ronchi. Coincidentally, Ronchi went out in a similar fashion to AB off of Morris’s bowling.

A testing ODI series for the Proteas indeed. Now we commence onward to the Test series where South Africa make their quest to regaining the number one test squad in rankings.

Rain on the Proteas Side… only just!

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Man of the Match: Quinton de Kock, for his 69 off 64 balls. Image from ©Getty Images

 

This is just a short match analysis, seeing as time zones are a little bit hazy currently as South Africa is about eleven hours behind New Zealand in time zones.

South African captain, AB de Villiers, won the toss and chose to bowl first. The team consisted of Amla, de Kock, du Plessis, de Villiers, Duminy, Behardien, Morris, Phehlukwayo, Rabada, Shamsi and Tahir. Only one change to the squad from Friday’s only T20 which ended in a victory for South Africa by 78 runs. Kane Williamson’s team had some changes, in Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, and Tom Latham with keeping the wicket.

The match had been reduced to 34 overs due to a rain delay that occurred earlier on in the day. New Zealand were in the third over when Tom Latham was trapped lbw off Morris, leaving the hosts at 19-1. Brownlie went out a couple of overs later, with Captain Kane on the crease to grind out the innings with Taylor… or so he thought, because he went out in the same over for 1. Neil Broom also came and went on the crease for 1 run off Morris, caught by Behardien. Williamson had hit a magnificent half-century while batting with Neesham to put another 26 runs on the board. Williamson was later bowled for 59 off Shamsi. Mitchell Santner came on and contributed 17 more runs, but was caught behind off Rabada. After a good bowling and fielding performance by South Africa, Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme put up a 50-run partnership towards to end of the innings, which in turn had New Zealand ending with 207-7. Should be more or less easy to chase, right?

The start of the South African innings went more or less according to plan, Amla and de Kock putting up 88 runs for the first wicket partnership. Amla was unfortunately bowled and caught by Captain Kane for 35, and he looked on song for a decent half century. Speaking of half-centuries, de Kock played a great innings to reach his 10th ODI 50 off 47 balls, but was later dismissed off Trent Boult for 69. De Villiers was next, and overdue for a captain’s knock. A mini collapse ensued when Duminy came onto the crease before du Plessis was trapped lbw off Sodhi for 14 runs. Duminy, however only managed to score one run and Southee had caught a wicket off his own delivery. Fan-favourite, Behardien, came next to try salvage the innings and silence his critics. He was clean bowled off Southee for a golden duck and Southee was now on a hat-trick. Morris came next and put in a partnership with his captain for 30 runs. He was trying to go big with another boundary ball, but was caught by Boult near the boundary rope.

A partnership, almost like the innings played when the Proteas played against Australia last year in Durban which defined the series for them, between Andile Phehlukwayo and de Villiers went unbroken for 56 runs. The required run-rate kept creeping up to nearly 10 runs needed in the overs remaining. Going into the 32nd over, SA needed around 22 runs off 12 balls to win. Quick singles between the two batsmen kept the scoreboard moving, then Phehlukwayo let a little bit loose and slammed a ball off Boult for six, getting SA closer to the score needed. In the last over, 12 runs were needed. A single and two extras brought the Proteas to 9 needed off 4 balls. Phehlukwayo creamed a delivery off Southee for another six. With one ball to spare, de Villiers hit the remaining runs for four to lead the ODI series 1-0. Man of the Match went to Quinton de Kock for his contribution of 69 runs.

A great performance to win the game by a nail-biter, but I do have some concerns. We may be in for more heart-attacks during this series if it’s going to be anything like today’s game. The death-bowling by South Africa in the last three overs of the New Zealand innings was a little bit concerning, due to the number of runs scored between two tail-end batsmen. While de Grandhomme may have a slight reputation of being a hard-hitting low-order batsman, he should be relatively easier to get out than a top-order batsman. The last over of that innings went for 22 runs. Southee and de Grandhomme shared an unbroken partnership of 51 runs. Our death bowling, for the importance of this team keeping their number 1 ranking if it’s any importance to them, needs to improve soon!

If We Cannot Take Two Tail-End Wickets, We’re Kinda Screwed

How South Africa managed to concede almost 100 runs towards the end of the Sri Lanka innings, let a Sri Lankan batsman sail to his maiden half century and century, and only take two more wickets of the middle-order to have them batting through with two wickets remaining, could be a slight cause for concern in terms of the Proteas’ bowling attack for the future.

A short summary of South Africa’s batting scorecard: Hashim Amla score 154 runs, him and our beloved wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock put on a first-wicket partnership of 189 runs in which de Kock scored his 12th ODI century. He later went out for 109, giving Sri Lanka the breakthrough they desperately needed. Another 50-run partnership brought South Africa closer to 250 runs as Faf du Plessis, whom had partnered Amla at the crease went out for 41. AB de Villiers came on next, but only managed to put on 14 runs from the 9 bowled to him. JP Duminy was next up, but also did not occupy the crease long enough, and scored 10 runs, including a boundary.

Amla, and fan-favourite, Farhaan Behardien, occupied the middle to put on 62 runs just before Amla was caught out, his 154 runs now being one of his best individual scores at Supersport Park in Centurion. Both batsmen had done a fantastic job in piling on more runs in the third powerplay, with Amla scoring sixes as freely as we have ever seen. A truly fantastic knock by him after going out cheaply in the fourth ODI in Cape Town for 1 run only. South Africa ended their 50 overs with 384-6. Many had speculated, after the pitch analysis done by Supersport commentators, that the team batting first would go on to around 400 runs due to the dry conditions. Upul Tharanga passed up that opportunity to have his bowlers concede more than almost 45 runs each, and six wickets shared between the seven bowlers; Suranga Lakmal taking three of the six.

I personally do not know what happened in the fourth ODI with AB constantly changing the bowlers, having Wayne Parnell open the bowling and going for almost 15 runs in the opening over, and not starting with Kagiso Rabada. However, speaking to a fellow cricket friend of mine, she had suggested that he may want experiment with different bowling partners for Rabada, bearing in mind that Andile Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris did not play in that match. There was a lot more inexperience in that side compared to today’s game as Morris and Phehlukwayo were back in the squad, and Dwaine Pretorius and Tabraiz Shamsi were substituted out.

The bowling started off not too badly, with Rabada being slightly more expensive than usual. However, things turned around for the Proteas when Tharanga was caught out by Rabada off Morris for 7, which gave the Sri Lankan’s a slight wobble as Kusal Mendis was caught by de Villiers for one run, and Niroshan Dickwella was caught for 39. Sri Lanka had lost their top order and half their middle-order batsmen for 85 runs. A rebuilding partnership by Sachith Pathirana and Asela Gunaratne of 93 runs brought them slowly, but not enough, back into the match. Now, here is where things get interesting…

Phehlukwayo, at this point if I am not mistaken, had bowled one over, which was a maiden over. A couple of overs later, he bowls again and has now, going towards the third powerplay of the match, has bowled three overs and gone for six runs. Sri Lanka now go into the 42nd over of the match, with Parnell bowling the previous over and going for only three runs. You would want to keep things tight and build more pressure, right? Not quite possibly what AB was thinking: he brings in part-time bowler and occasional all-rounder Behardien to bowl the next over. What the actual reason was will be left to the Mythbusters of cricket researchers, because that was one interesting decision by AB.

This bowling change was so interesting, yet shocking, that during the over, du Plessis was looking around and probably thinking: “Really, best friend? You want to try and finish this match off like this? Seriously, best friend?” Do not worry, Faf, South African fans were kind of thinking the same thing. Behardien managed to concede 17 runs in his over, including four boundaries in a row. A question that I thought of out-loud was: is AB trying to make sure Behardien never refers to himself as an all-rounder again by making him bowl so that he can only be classified as a batsman? I may be just stirring the pot here, just could be a valid question.

It was slightly worrying that the SA bowlers could not bowl a hard enough length to get the remaining wickets to end the game much quicker than it should have. There was no need for the Sri Lankan innings to go to the full 50 overs. With that being said, should this be an ongoing problem for our bowlers now against a team like Sri Lanka, with due respect to them, there are going to be some interesting times ahead during the New Zealand tour coming up later in the week.

To conclude this match report, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to Hashim Amla for winning a Man-of-the-Match award for his 154 runs in this game, and Faf du Plessis for winning Man-of-the-Series for his fantastic form throughout the ODI matches and surpassing 400 runs in a series.Congratulations goes to Quinton de Kock for surpassing 3000 ODI runs in 74 ODI matches which is the third fastest by a wicketkeeper, and Farhaan Behardien for surpassing 1000 ODI runs.

But the biggest congratulations must definitely go to the whole Proteas team for winning the ODI series 5-0 and moving to number 1 of the ICC ODI Rankings, passing Australia by one point to take top spot. May the upcoming matches be as prosperous and successful as this series of matches were.

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?

Tickled Pink Proteas Buzz Past Sri Lanka

The Pink Proteas clinched a series win in their third win in the ODI series at Wanderers last night. While Pink Day is known for the theatrics of AB de Villiers with his explosive batting, and of hitting breast cancer for a six, the day was certainly one that was buzzing with excitement from fans. It was also Faf du Plessis’ 100th ODI for South Africa. What better way to celebrate it by raising funds for breast cancer and raising awareness of the disease?

The Pink Proteas opted to bowl first against the Sri Lankans with changes of Wayne Parnell being rested bringing in all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius and Farhaan Behardien replacing the injured David Miller (much to everyone’s displeasure) after he sustained a cut to his finger during the second ODI in Durban. The Proteas won the third ODI by 7 wickets with thanks to AB and JP Duminy grinding it out to put up a vital partnership of 72 runs to win the match and, essentially, the series. Man of the Match was presented to Dwaine Pretorius for his fantastic bowling figures, which are now his career best in ODIs, of 3-19 from 7 overs.

While Sri Lanka were batting, Niroshan Dickwella and stand-in captain Upul Tharanga put up a 1st wicket partnership of 60 runs before Tharanga was caught out off Kagiso Rabada by Pretorius. Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal fell one after the other, both only scoring 4 runs, when Andile Phehlukwayo struck within his allotted overs. This led to their batting order going into a slight collapse, only managing to put 162 runs when they were bowled out in the 39th over. This then left the Proteas with a total of 163 runs to chase.

Quinton de Kock was given a lifeline when Lahiru Kumara had bowled within the powerplay to trap him for lbw, only to find that it was pitching outside leg to keep him on the crease. He was unfortunate to be clean-bowled in the next delivery for 8. Hashim Amla was run out for 34 while trying to hold the innings together after du Plessis was caught for 24 off Lahiru Madushanka who made his debut. It was de Villiers and Duminy who carried South Africa home with 18 overs to spare. This win made it a fifth win out of five Pink Day One Day Internationals for South Africa.

A highlight of the Sri Lankan innings, or rather the whole match, was when the players were in the middle of their 25th over at 117-5 a swarm of bees had made their way onto the field, which forced players and umpires to take evasive action by lying on the ground for a couple of minutes, to the point where they had to be taken off the field for almost more than an hour. Groundsmen tried to lure the bees with a fire extinguisher, an open Coca-Cola can, and a bucket, but all failed as the bees still stayed on the field. A professional bee-keeper was called and came onto the field. He was welcomed with a roaring applause from the fans as once he sorted things out, play would resume which would lessen the chance of reduced overs for each team.

As a first time going to Pink Day, it did not really have that element of entertainment with many boundaries and sixes scored, as AB had admitted wishing he had batted first, it was still a relatively great day for the whole family and an awesome initiative by the Pink Drive where donations were given, hair was spray-painted pink, and stunning Pink Drive bracelets were on sale.

The Proteas upheld their special motto of never losing in pink to win the series, and if all goes according to plan with the rest of the matches in the series, South Africa will be number one in ICC ODI rankings as Australia are currently barely holding onto the number one spot since they lost the recent Chappell-Hadlee series to New Zealand 2-0 with the second match being rained out. New Zealand now have moved to third, a point ahead of India.

The fourth game between South Africa and Sri Lanka is in PPC Newlands in Cape Town and 13:30 South African time.

Proteas Dropped the Ball… several times.

Five times is what was counted. It felt like a lot more, some would say, and it probably was a lot more than five. Majority of these dropped catches were sitters. The basics of catching, from what I’ve seen at least, are the ones that could not be caught in last night’s game.

Sri Lanka’s fielding also had several misfields, so the game was more or less spread out evenly with South Africa also having not the best day in the field. South Africa’s batting was pretty average. The batting innings nearly being taken away when two of South Africa’s big hitters in David Miller and the ever-loved Farhaan Behardien went out in close succession by a sloppy shot and an unnecessary run-out respectively. Wicket-keeper and big-hitter for the bizhub Highveld Lions, Mangaliso Mosehle, came to the crease and hit a blitz 32 off 15 fifteen balls saw the Proteas end on 169-5 thanks to a classy 68 by returning batsman, AB de Villiers. An above average score especially on a ground like Newlands; one that can be easily defended, right? Captain Behardien thought so, too.

A couple of slightly expensive overs by Lungi Ngidi and new-bowler Dane Paterson saw Sri Lanka reach the end of the Powerplay 48-1, similar of that to South Africa’s 48-2. Imran Tahir came to the party again, bowling out stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal for 5, and was the stand-out bowler for the Proteas ending on figures of 3-18. Andile Phehlukwayo was also a slight stand-out for me with his good use of the slower ball to only concede two runs in his third over, which was much needed in order to propel the team to win the match and bowl well at the death.

That would have been the case if catches were taken! Throughout the match, there were an array of dropped catches both by Sri Lankan and South African fielders, and there happened to be many more by the Proteas. As we all know, the team was dealt with a curve-ball in the middle of 2016 by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula in which he called out for transformation targets to be introduced in cricket, netball, rugby and athletics. It has been met with many people agreeing and disagreeing with the targets, saying that our cricket especially will go to the dogs, or will even end up like Zimbabwe are in terms of their standard of cricket. I am an avid Twitter commentator whenever we play, and enjoy reading the comments of what fellow South African cricket fans have to say, but to go as far as saying that transformation targets was the reason we lost the match is nonsense. Since when does skin colour hinder cricketer’s ability to catch a ball? If I can remember clearly, Dane Paterson, who is white, had about two dropped catches in the game. It was a bad fielding performance all round, regardless. Basically in South Africa, whenever something goes wrong in the cricket, it’s because of transformation and quotas; but whenever something goes very very well, transformation is doing what was intended.

Captain Behardien said in his post-match interview that it was something that happens and is quite common. I don’t know any matches in the history of cricket had that many dropped catches and still expected something good to come out at the end, let alone a hat-trick of dropped catches. While it was his first time captaining a national side, some room for error was expected, but to an extent. Not pushing the team and making them know what was expected on the field and just claiming the dropped catches as something that happens is unacceptable. He, in the meantime is also struggling to get back to his T20 Challenge playing ways. He should have a lot done better. No doubt.

Thankfully, however, Behardien will not captain the One Day side as De Villiers is back. While this series was not an important one for preparation for a World T20, it was one to enhance the depth of our T20 squad for future games. It was also important to give our “first string” players a break from what was a great ending to 2016 and an even better start to 2017 to get the geared up and ready for the upcoming season of great and exciting cricket to be played. Senior players in the T20 squad should have stepped up more, but a possible back-up for Quinton de Kock and a new raw talent in seam bowling were unearthed in Mosehle and Ngidi respectively. South African fans and selectors should only start to panic and worry if the ODI (One Day Internatinal) series does not go according to plan. Until then, let us hope the Proteas go back to training and start with the basics of catching. Catches win matches.

Congratulations must go to Sri Lanka for winning the series 2-1 and to Niroshan Dickwella for getting Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series awards for being the highest run-scorer in the series with 133 to his name.