If Faf Was Cheating, Then So Was Steven Smith

This is a slight problem if Steve is going to listen to a player who has only played six test matches and clearly doesn’t know the rules.

Faf du Plessis: found guilty of ball tampering after video footage surfaced of him polishing a ball with saliva mixed with mint from a sweet. Fined 100 percent of his match fee. Appealed the decision. Told by David Richardson that it’s disappointing that he was appealing, even though it was well within his right. Was booed by Australians for what happened and harassed by Aussie media in between matches. The Aussie nation was basically hurt because they felt a sweet kept the Baggy Greens from winning that test series.

Steve Smith: called out by umpire Nigel Llong and Virat Kohli for using the wrong kind of DRS (Dressing-Room Review System). Accused (but no proof of the other two times) of doing this three times over three days. Said it was a brain fade. Apart from sane cricket fans and Indian players, CA board and the rest of his team believed him (on a necessary side note, remember when ‘Saint’ David Warner crucified Faf during Mint-gate saying “I would be disappointed if any of my players did that. Rules are rules”) and backed him. So much so that the ICC didn’t sanction him.

Now hey, I’m not implying that there are some shady dealings behind the closed doors of the ICC, but something doesn’t make sense. The issue was reported within five days of the match being played. There is video evidence, which has both Kohli and Nigel Llong seeing what happened. So why was this not dealt with? Because Steve Smith said it was an accident? Is that the justification we can give nowadays?

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Disagreements before the drama happened. Image: india.com

We all remember when South Africa basically obliterated the Aussies in their own backyard late last year in tests, right? Great, because we are taking a small trip down memory lane. Apart from the win, what is the one thing you remember from that series? If you thought of the Faf du Plessis mint-gate drama, you are spot on! While, maybe, it’s still a sensitive topic for heartbroken Aussie fans that their glory boys were embarrassed at home due to an alleged swing-inducing sweet, it is something that needs to be addressed.

Earlier this month, Australian captain Steve Smith was reprimanded by umpire Nigel Llong and Virat Kohli for looking up at the dressing room for assistance on whether or not to review for an lbw. Smith had gone on to say, during the press conference, that it was a brain-fade and that he did not mean to do it or that he did not know he could not do it. This may sound a bit rude, but what kind of a captain, whom has been a captain for as long as Smith has, does not know the rules of the game?

kwesesportscomPeter Handscomb tried to divert the criticism Smith was getting onto him by tweeting it was his fault stating that it was him that said Smith must ask the teammates and staff in the dressing room. Even so, his captain should have still not done it. There’s no excuse for what he’s done. As a captain, he should have said to Handscomb that was he was suggesting is not allowed. Apologising, while it’s polite, is not really going to help anything. Do you think that even if Faf apologised, he would not have gotten such heat? Why were there no newspapers slating Smith for what he had done? Were they hyping up how Kohli had reacted than Smith’s actual offence? This is a slight problem if Steve is going to listen to a player who has only played six test matches and clearly doesn’t know the rules.

Am I wrong in assuming that checking with support staff to see if you are out or not allowed is a case of common sense? As a South African fan, because of how the Mint-gate saga rocked the cricketing nation for a bit, I am mad that the ICC is not doing a single thing about this. They just closed the matter off and told everyone to move on. I feel that they should have addressed this matter, not just a peace talk, once the heat had died down. Because this did not happen, the rest of this series could turn ugly with sledges filled with pettiness and bitterness. Did the ICC actually close the matter off on purpose to get people talking about the match/series and giving it more hype? But hey, maybe these two teams are going to act like grown men, and not let a small issue like this not get in the way of play, right?

Newspaper clipping image found at kwesesports.com.

The Love-Hate Relationship Between the Proteas and ICC Events

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World Cup Heartbreak. Photo from indianexpress.com

1992: South Africa vs England (ODI) Semi-finals – loss by 19 runs

1996: South Africa vs West Indies (ODI) Quarter-finals – loss by 19 runs (Brian Lara’s one man show to help his side go to semi-finals)

1999: South Africa vs Australia (ODI) Semi-final – match tied but Australia advanced to finals

2007: South Africa vs Australia (ODI) Semi-final – loss by 7 wickets

2011: South Africa vs New Zealand (ODI) Quarter-final – loss by 49 runs

2015: (Most controversial) South Africa vs New Zealand (ODI) Semi-final – loss by 4 wickets (I’m still hurt from this loss almost two years on)

2016: South Africa vs West Indies (T20) Group stages – loss by 3 wickets

Ahh, that love story. That one love story that just never ends well for the protagonist. A twist in the fairy-tale. Like a volta in a poem. Always letting the antagonist get its way and leaving the main character heartbroken. The love story, in this case, is any ICC event where the Proteas have come agonisingly close to reaching the final; the protagonist is the Proteas; and the antagonist is the building pressure in knockout games.

If you look closely at these summarised results above, you will notice that majority of the matches lost were either in quarter-finals or in semi-finals; the most recent, and most controversial, being the Cricket World Cup in 2015. If there was one thing I noticed while looking for these results, is that majority of these group stage matches were fairly simple for the Proteas. Looking through the results of group stages in the various tournaments, with exception of two to three teams, most teams South Africa played against were, with all due respect, not ones that measured up to the standard of play and test of temperament and skill that Australia, England or India teams possess in their matches.

It was more or less quite simple for the Proteas to get to the Super Sixes or semi-finals due to them playing teams like Kenya, Zimbabwe, West Indies, or even the Netherlands in the beginning. No wonder it’s a slight challenge when they face Australia or New Zealand in a do-or-die game and feel the immense amount of pressure. They know: one mistake, and you’re out and called “chokers” until the next ICC event. So should we really blame the Proteas here? If they are used to playing near minnow teams in group stages, with all due respect to them, would it be natural for them to have a slight sense of complacency going into knockout rounds? Is that when the Proteas crack? Truth be told though, the Proteas should be able to play against any team they face, especially in an ICC event.

It’s almost similar to an unloving relationship that the Proteas have placed us fans in. Showing promise of finally getting that glistening piece of silverware to add to the cupboard that still holds the trophy from the ICC Champions Trophy in 1998 by doing so well in bilateral series against different countries in a season. However every time a test of commitment comes around, our beloved protagonist “chokes” under pressure. Like a lover promising to take you to your favourite restaurant for your anniversary every year, but never following through with that plan when the date actually comes around. Every date beforehand is perfect, and nothing goes wrong. It is only when the big day arrives of your anniversary when everything goes awry.

As a fan of the protagonist here, I would like for them to be that one protagonist that seizes the day like in the romantic comedies, and get what exactly the fans want: the Champions Trophy winners title, and eventually become Cricket World Cup winners in 2019. Everyone wants this so badly, so badly that AB de Villiers himself has opted out of a few test series this year, and could probably miss some matches in any given format against teams next year. He is showing a near unhealthy, but needed dedication to making sure he and his team is ready for the World Cup in 2019. This love-hate affair with pressure situations in knockout games must come to an end, once and for all. Everyone knows they can do it, but they must just prove it. You can be number one in rankings, but how your match temperament is in pressure situations, like a World Cup, is where the real test lies.

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?

If Phehlukwayo Does Not Take Wickets, Then We Can Panic

As the title of this article says, we should only start criticising and worrying about his form and place in the squad if Andile Phehlukwayo gets absolutely no wickets in this ODI series against Sri Lanka.

Comments about dropping him have been doing a slight round during the first ODI against Sri Lanka that ended in a win for South Africa by 8 wickets. His performance during the T20 series was not too bad, while he was a slight bit expensive in the second game. As a sporting public, we do tend to forget that while our sports heroes are meant to be on top of their game in every match, it simply is not possible to be on golden form every time. Hashim Amla took a slight dip in form a couple of weeks ago at the near end of the ODI series against Australia continuing into the test series against Sri Lanka, but is now back in the swing and groove of his batting.

It is also not a bad idea to mention that Phehlukwayo has come out a nasty groin injury from the first Dolphins game during the T20 Challenge in 2016 against the Warriors, so he is naturally a little bit rusty and out of touch – which should be expected. He has had some domestic 4-day games as well as the recent T20 series. Form is not something that is found in a day. Only if he does not take any wickets in this ODI series, does not score any runs due to him going out cheaply, and leaks runs at any time during his bowling, then we should be worried about his form. However, Phehlukwayo is still very young, only 20, so this slight lack of form is to be expected, just like how we can expect fellow paceman Kagiso Rabada, as we have seen before, to be a little bit off their game. They are still very young, and while they have had good games and good series, inconsistency is expected. Rabada did say, when asked about Amla’s form by the media, that he is not a robot and that he knows what needs to be done in order to get back to form. The very same can be said about Phehlukwayo.