21 September 2007
As captain Graeme Smith said afterwards, the Proteas seem to find ways of failing in big tournaments. India handed South Africa a 37-run defeat in Durban on Thursday night, knocking the host country out of the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships.
After India had totalled 153 for 5, unbeaten SA could afford to lose, but needed to score 126 runs to advance to the semi-finals.
However, a poor batting display, in which only two batsmen reached double figures, saw the Proteas come up 10 runs short as they managed only 116 for 9 in their 20 overs.
India ‘at home’
Durban is home to a large Indian population and a sold-out Sahara Stadium Kingsmead was so filled with Indian flags and cricket shirts it appeared as if it was a home game for the visitors. Ultimately, South Africa played as if they were the visitors and unfamiliar with the Kingsmead pitch.
After the Proteas’ meek batting batting performance, questions were asked about yet another loss when South Africa seemed all set to make its mark. The biggest theme among the questions raised revolved around the wisdom, or lack thereof, in leaving Jacques Kallis out of the T20 squad.
Thursday night’s contest was exactly the kind of game that required the kind of calming innings that Kallis is so good at producing. Instead, Vernon Philander, the all-rounder it appears was selected ahead of Kallis, faced five balls before charging down the pitch to Harbhajan Singh and being stumped for two.
In the absence of Kallis…
Philander’s contribution during the T20 amounted to scoring eight runs in two innings and claiming four wickets in 13 overs at an average of 26 runs per wicket and eight runs an over.
Andre Nel, the bowler brought into the South African squad after batsman Loots Bosman was withdrawn due to injury bowled only four overs in the entire tournament.
Surely a batsman, in this case Kallis, should have replaced a batsman, instead of a bowler who was hardly used. And surely Kallis was a far better option for a tournament of the T20 World Championships magnitude than the unproven Philander? Clearly, the selectors got it wrong when they left out the man regarded by many as the top all-rounder in the game.
Top six failure
In the meltdown against India, apart from Mark Boucher’s 36, the next highest score among SA’s top six batsmen in the batting order was five by Justin Kemp.
Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Kemp, and Shaun Pollock only totalled 12 runs between them. What hurt the home side nearly as much is that they took 46 balls for their low return.
Albie Morkel matched Boucher with a score of 36, but the next highest score was extras with 25. Take them out of the equation and the batsmen scored only 91 runs. Take Morkel’s and Boucher’s contributions away and the other eight batsmen who made it to the crease produced just 19 runs.
No doubt, winning the toss and choosing to bat first helped India; when South Africa batted, the pitch, under lights, provided the Indian bowlers with some useful assistance. Nonetheless, they needed to put the ball in right places and SA’s batsmen needed to adapt to that.
RP Singh was outstanding for India, capturing 4 for 13 in his four overs as he dismissed Gibbs, Smith, Pollock, and Albie Morkel.
And when opportunities presented themselves to the Indians, they grabbed them with both hands. A good example of this happened when Rohit Sharma nailed the stumps with a pick-up-and-dive throw at the stumps to run out Kemp.
Two balls later, Pollock was dismissed for a duck and after six overs South Africa was knee deep in the muck at 31 for 5.
Uncharacteristically poor fielding also cost the Proteas. Vernon Philander dropped a sitter when Robin Uthappa had 10. Luckily for South Africa, he added only five more runs. Later, Albie Morkel lost the ball in the lights and missed a chance to catch Mahendra Singh Dhoni when he was on 10. The Indian captain went on to make an invaluable 45 off 33 deliveries.
Dhoni and man of the match Sharma, who finished unbeaten on 50 off 40 balls, went on to add a further 56 runs together. Partnerships of that nature – theirs was worth 85 in total – are what play crucial roles in winning T20 matches.every bit as much as dropped catches cost matches.
The tournament wasn’t all doom and gloom for South Africa, however. After all, the Proteas did record four convincing victories before throwing it all away against India.
Morkel brothers excel
The Morkel brothers, Albie and Morne, emerged with plenty of credit.
Albie was the second highest runs scorer for South Africa, scoring 120 at an average of 40. Among the batsmen, his strike rate was the second highest in the team. He also proved himself to be a very clean hitter of the ball, smashing seven sixes, with three of them in excess of 100 metres.
Morne, meanwhile, was the highest wicket taker, the most economical bowler, and had the best strike rate of any South African.
He captured 4 for 17 against New Zealand in a superb display of fast bowling, and had it not been for umpire Billy Doctrove calling him for a no ball – which the delivery clearly wasn’t – he would have become the first bowler in T20 internationals to pick up a five-for in a match.
More questions than answers
Unfortunately, despite the successes, South Africa has once again been left with more questions than answers about the team’s ability to perform under pressure.
With the Proteas failing to reach 126 runs, New Zealand grabbed second spot in Group E behind India to secure a semi-final spot.
The Black Caps will tackle Pakistan in the first final four match at Newlands on Saturday after the Pakistanis won all three of their Super Eights matches. India, meanwhile, will take on Australia in Durban where they will, no doubt, once again enjoy fanatical support.
Australia on a roll
While the Australians started the tournament slowly, they have slowly adapted their game to the 20-overs-a-side format and in their last outing were in ominously good form as they crushed Sri Lanka by 10 wickets with almost 10 overs to spare.
The Aussies clearly have the firepower to add the T20 World Championships title to their World Cup title and ranking as the number one test team in the world.
The final will take place on Monday, 24 September, which is Heritage Day and a public holiday in South Africa.
SA vs India match summary
153 for 5 (Sharma 50*, Dhoni 45, Pollock 2 for 17)
South Africa 116 for 9 (Boucher 36, A Morkel 36, RP Singh 4 for 13, Sreesanth 2 for 23)