28 March 2011
The Proteas were favoured to beat New Zealand in a Cricket World Cup quarterfinal in Mirpur, Bangladesh on Friday, but it went horribly wrong for Graeme Smith and company as a dramatic collapse left them 49 runs short and out of the tournament.
The pitch and the match resembled South Africa’s group stage game against England in many ways, and similar mistakes cost the Proteas as the pressure got to the middle order.
Against England, South Africa lost four wickets for three runs, falling from 124 for 3 to 127 for 7, while against New Zealand they lost four wickets for 11 runs, tumbling from 121 for 3 to 132 for 7.
Lessons not yet learnt
The fact that the same problems showed up again on a similar pitch was perhaps an indication of the inexperience of the team. It also suggested that lessons had not yet been learnt.
It was the kind of pitch that failed to provide the fast bowlers in the South African team with much and thus served as an equaliser of the Proteas’ perceived advantage in that department.
Once again, like the match against England, the pitch became progressively more difficult as the game wore on.
Disappointment and shock was plastered over the faces of the South African squad after their exit, while the Black Caps celebrated wildly.
Wins over the group winners
It has been an interesting tournament for the Kiwis, who claimed the final quarterfinal spot from Group A, but have handed both group leaders big defeats. They thrashed Pakistan by 110 runs, which was the Pakistanis only loss in Group A.
The disappointment for South Africa, this time around, is not that they lost, but that they lost so badly. This squad, after all, offered the most diverse bowling options since the country first took part in the World Cup in 1992. It also featured some world class batting talent and excellent fielding.
On paper, beating New Zealand shouldn’t have been a problem for South Africa, based on man-for-man match-ups and the team’s records in recent times, but on the day the Proteas let the game get away from them after playing well for three-quarters of it.
South African bowling
They entered the contest having set a World Cup record of dismissing six sides in succession and although their bowling attack didn’t make it seven, they again bowled well and put South Africa in a position to win the contest.
It started well for the Proteas as Robin Peterson and Dale Steyn, South Africa’s opening bowlers on the day, removed Kiwi openers Brendan McCullum and Martin Guptill cheaply to reduce New Zealand to 16 for 2 after six overs.
Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor then proceeded to put on a vital stand of 114 runs, although the South African bowlers never allowed them to score freely despite the amount of time the batsmen spent at the crease.
Imran Tahir was responsible for the dismissal of both men, removing Taylor first for 43 off 72 deliveries and later sending Ryder on his way for the game’s top score of 83, which came off 121 balls. It was a good knock by Ryder, who kept his shot-making simple, but did struggle to read Tahir at times.
Kane Williamson played a useful knock of 38 not out off only 41 balls, but there was little other in the way of contributions as South Africa restricted New Zealand to 221 for 8.
Tahir excelled with 2 for 32 in nine overs, while Morne Morkel bowled well at the death, during which he removed Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori, to finish with figures of 3 for 46 in eight overs. Dale Steyn picked up 2 for 42 in his 10.
Wretched piece of luck
South Africa lost a wicket in the first over of their reply to a wretched piece of luck. Hashim Amla cut at a ball from off-spinner Nathan McCullum. It kept a little low and caught the lower part of Amla’s bat, and headed towards the ground. However, it struck wicketkeeper Brendan McCullum on his right foot and looped up to slip where Vettori took the catch.
The unpredictable low bounce proved problematic for Amla during the tournament. In earlier games, he was twice out cutting the ball onto his own stumps.
After Amla’s departure Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis set about providing the South African innings with a good platform. They put on 61 runs before Smith was out, caught by the substitute, Jamie How, off the bowling of Oram for 28 from 34 deliveries.
AB de Villiers joined Jacques Kallis at the wicket and they kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely with assured batting and shot placement.
They took the score to 108, but then Kallis fell. He pulled a poor short ball from Tim Southee and made good contact, but his shot was to the deepest part of the ground, and Oram made a good running catch to end the all-rounder’s innings for 47 off 75 balls. Had he played the same shot from the other crease it would have been a comfortable six.
JP Duminy didn’t last long. He misjudged the length of a ball from McCullum and was bowled for three.
Two balls later disaster struck as South Africa lost the vital wicket of De Villiers, who was run out for 35 off 40 balls. He had looked the most comfortable batsman in either team on a difficult pitch, but his departure opened up what some considered to be a long South African tail.
Runs abruptly slowed to a trickle and matters became even more serious for the Proteas when Oram bowled Johan Botha for two with an excellent delivery.
Four runs later, Robin Peterson was out for a duck, caught by wicketkeeper McCullum off Oram. Since the departure of Duminy on 121, South Africa had added 11 runs in six overs and four balls and lost four wickets.
Dale Steyn stuck around a while, but he perished for eight, caught by Oram, trying to up the run rate with a big shot off of McCullum.
Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s last recognised batsman, was still there and had done a good job, scoring at close to a run a ball. However, he struck a delivery from Oram straight to Southee at cover point and was the second last man out for 36 off 43 balls.
Imran Tahir was the last man in, but Morne Morkel was the last man out, caught in the deep by How off Luke Woodcock after going for a big shot in a desperate effort for an unlikely victory.
The New Zealanders celebrated wildly, while a grim-faced South African squad made their way onto the field to shake hands. The Proteas knew they had missed out on a good opportunity and, in the back of their minds, knew that they would be widely slammed back at home and labelled by some with what has become known as “the C word”.
Oram finished with figures of 4 for 39 to go with his two catches. He was named man of the match.
Nathan McCullum weighed in with an excellent return of 3 for 24 in 10 overs.
On a positive note for the Proteas, leg-spinner Imran Tahir excelled and finished the tournament near the top of the wicket takers list, despite missing two matches because of injury, whilst also sporting the best strike late of anyone.
Robin Peterson was South Africa’s leading wicket taker and certainly made a step up from his previous performances in limited opportunities for the Proteas.
AB de Villiers, like Tahir, missed some games through injury, but played up to the standard of his prodigious talent and finished as one of the highest run scorers whilst showing himself to be one of the leading batsmen in the world.
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