It was not a day for catching skills, nor was it a day for good batting aside from the blade of Man-of-the-Match JP Duminy. But South Africa showed good fighting spirit after Ireland knocked the breath out of their top order, and with the ball they efficiently foiled the Irish chase. South Africa have qualified for the next round while Ireland, sadly, will not. By SIMON WILLIAMSON.
Ireland’s captain, William Porterfield, won the toss and chose to bowl on a Kolkota wicket sporting a greenish tinge underfoot and clouds overhead – conditions suited to Ireland’s nippy bowling attack. And indeed the decision paid off. Hashim Amla departed first – his “if you cut, cut hard” philosophy works 99% of the time, but finally wound up in a catch at third man. And then the procession began.
Morné van Wyk was pushed up the order (as AB de Villiers sat out, replaced by Colin Ingram) and walked in at first-drop. Although Van Wyk enjoys facing the newer ball, I find it odd that to accommodate him we move one of the best number three batters of all time to number four. Nonetheless, Van Wyk did score 42 at a fairly rapid rate. His innings was eventful as he was put down twice – a hard chance at short cover and a fairly standard one at slip – but he also hesitated after calling a run resulting in Graeme Smith being run out. Van Wyk was bowled by the very impressive 18-year-old left-arm spinner, Grant Dockrill, and shortly afterwards Jacques Kallis was also run out. Faf du Plessis came and went and it was left to JP Duminy and Colin Ingram to resurrect South Africa’s effort.
At 117/5 and fans declaring that we were out of the World Cup, everyone should be dropped and the support staff should be beaten with their physio tables and laptops, South Africa showed some good mettle. What South Africa are not known for is counter-attacking, yet in walked young Ingram and proceeded to do just that while Duminy safely nudged ones and twos. Ingram latched onto anything too short, wide or full and his innings of 46 off 43 balls contained seven boundaries and snatched the match’s momentum from Ireland. It was precisely the correct and professional kind of innings required by South Africa, and if I was Faf du Plessis I would be nervous.
As Ingram’s blade was swatting Irish bowlers, Duminy was accumulating steadily. When Ingram was bowled by Trent Johnston with 10 overs to go, Johan Botha came in and the good work under pressure continued. Duminy began to up the run rate, particularly during the batting Power Play (taken in the last five overs of the innings) and South Africa took 17 off the 49th over when he hit two fours and a six. On 99 he unselfishly went for another maximum, but was caught brilliantly by Kevin O’Brien to fall one short of what would have been an excellent century. Our gutsy lower order had dragged the score from 117/5 to 272/7.
Photo: South Africa's captain Graeme Smith is run out during their ICC Cricket World Cup group B match against Ireland in Kolkata March 15, 2011. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri.
While criticism could be levelled at the Proteas' top order, the greatest problem was the running between the wickets. This is actually one of our major strengths and I cannot fathom this letting South Africa down too often in the future. I would say it was an off day, rather than anything we saw today being endemic. Most unfortunately, though, this resulted in Smith not having the opportunity to turn his form around.
South Africa’s bowling performance was nothing short of superbly efficient. While Morné Morkel’s fielding may have been heinous, his bowling certainly wasn’t. He removed Porterfield in his first over with a beauty that seamed away, found the edge and then the hands of first slip, and followed it up with Stirling’s scalp. Pace continued to be the destroyer-in-chief as Kallis accounted for Niall O’Brien, but,as the ball got older, South Africa’s spinners came on and strangled the Irish - both bowling eight-over spells for 32.
In the 12th over Botha trapped Ed Joyce lbw, but it was Peterson who really did the damage. He floated one up enticing Kevin O’Brien, the man who destroyed England, into skying an attempted slog to Amla at long-off. In the same over he trapped Gary Wilson in front and shortly after (the 25th) he accounted for Alex Cusack who knocked one in the air to the covers. Peterson has proved a very difficult bowler to hit in this tournament. If you remember, he bowled alongside Dale Steyn during India’s epic collapse against South Africa and I will happily admit to having had my expectations confounded by him. I was outwardly sceptical when he was selected, but he has had an excellent tournament so far.
Duminy picked up a wicket in his first over and Kallis and Morkel returned to finish off the tail in a thoroughly clinical performance as Ireland crashed to 141, just over half of South Africa’s score.
Ireland, sadly, cannot qualify for the quarter finals in this tournament, but have been the only associate team to show any grit at all. Their win against England will be the highlight, but the men in green were in winning positions against both the West Indies and Bangladesh. Their bowling attack is steady, their batsmen can chase big scores, they are very composed and George Dockrill looks an excellent asset for the future (the real trick will be in not losing him to England).
For South Africa, the equation is simple: Win against Bangladesh on Saturday and top the group. DM
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Main photo: South Africa's Jean-Paul Duminy (R) plays a shot as Ireland's wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien watches during their ICC Cricket World Cup group B match in Kolkata March 15, 2011. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri