New Proteas’ T20 skipper Faf du Plessis and new coach Russell Domingo got their campaign off to a winning start by thumping New Zealand by eight wickets in the first T20 at Kingsmead on Friday. If it’s a sign of what’s to come in the next few weeks, New Zealand should put the emergency room on speed dial. By ANT SIMS.
Brendon McCullum and New Zealand’s summer got off to the worst possible start in Durban as the Black Caps took one hell of a beating on Friday night, losing the first of the three T20s against South Africa by eight wickets, with 47 balls still remaining.
New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat first, although perhaps it would have been better if they said at the start that they won the toss and chose to set an atrocious total. What exactly the Black Caps' plan was with their batting is not quite certain - the surface was somewhat unpredictable but when such a track is combined with utterly awful shot-selection, the result can only be disastrous.
Rory Kleinveldt, bowling at first change, picked up a wicket in his first over when he got rid of Rob Nicol. The New Zealand batsman tried to waltz down the track but only managed to find the edge, and it was the start of cataclysmic innings for the visitors. To say that the Black Caps were in a pickle would be putting it mildly. Instead, they were in a rotting gherkin which was left out in the blistering Cape Town sun for too long.
The top four managed just 18 runs between them as their more senior batsmen looked utterly clueless against a rookie South African attack.
While South Africa did dish up some crafty bowling, using length variation well on a surface with a bit of unpredictable bounce, the credit really has to go to the sheer ineptitude of the New Zealand batsmen – especially the more experienced players who should have helped their side out of the well instead of into it.
Colin Munro managed 23 and Doug Bracewell hit an unbeaten 21, while the South African bowlers lapped up wickets; both the veteran players as well as the rookies seized the opportunity to blow up their T20 averages.
Richard Levi, who now averages 11.22 in 10 matches since that record-breaking 117, once again proved that perhaps it's time for him to go back to the drawing board. Levi has been in decent form with his domestic team in the one-day cup, but his form on the international stage has been nothing but a disappointment. Mitchell McClenaghan, on debut, angled the ball across, and Levi poked tamely at it, only to find an edge through to the slips and New Zealand, for a brief few moments, might have just believed that there could be some sort of twist in the tale.
Skipper Faf du Plessis and debutants Henry Davids and Quinton de Kock had other plans, though. Davids managed a nifty 20 before he was foxed and bowled by Ronnie Hira. Du Plessis and De Kock, however, saw the team home with ease as the Proteas got their home summer off to a winning start.
McCullum spoke after the match about the brand of cricket New Zealand would like to play – he said the side was looking to take an aggressive approach, but to be aggressive, but if their definition of aggression is the limp upper cut on Friday night, things aren’t going to end very well for the visitors. They have just a few hours before the second T20 takes place on Sunday, and the skipper insisted that they must look forward to what is to come.
“We have a new game to focus on in just a few hours and we know that there were a couple of areas we didn’t quite get right tonight. We missed a few fundamentals, we want to be aggressive, but to do that, we first need to get the basics right,” McCullum said.
Fundamentals and batting with their head screwed on will be a good place to start for the Black Caps, and while McCullum had plenty of praise for the South Africans and the way the hosts exposed their fragility, he also insisted that, despite the drama of mismanagement and missing a chunk of some of their best players, his charges approached the game with the right attitude.
“With a bunch of new faces in the squad, I can’t fault the guys’ energy and attitude. They were certainly keen and they definitely came into it positively, but perhaps they were just a little bit too keen,” McCullum added.
His counterpart, Du Plessis, who is no stranger to captaincy, was all smiles at the post-match presentation. And while he admitted the pace of T20 could be a bit quick, Du Plessis’ star is shining brightly. With a solid win under his belt, the 28-year-old is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“It was a fantastic start for us; I have absolutely no complaints. Captaining was fun for me tonight. I wasn’t really nervous before the game, but when you are out on the field, things are going at a million miles an hour. It will definitely take some getting used to,” Du Plessis said.
Having already set the tone with what they are capable of on the Test arena, the new-look Proteas with their new coach have shown what they are capable of in the shortest format of the game, too. And while they might be without some of their star players, if the crop of players who walked out onto the field in Kingsmead can reproduce even just a third of what they did on Friday, it could be a hot, hot summer for South African cricket fans.
New Zealand: 86-10 (18.2 overs), Colin Munro 23 (18), Doug Bracewell 21 (25), Rory Kleinveldt 3.2-1-18-3, Robin Peterson 4-0-8-2
South Africa: 87-2 (12.1 overs), Faf du Plessis 38*(32), Quinton de Kock 28* (23), Mitchell McClenaghan 3-1-20-1, Ronnie Hira 3-0-15-1 DM
Photo: South Africa's Rory Kleinveldt and David Miller (R) celebrate the wicket of New Zealand's Rob Nicol (not in picture) during their T20 international cricket match in Durban, December 21, 2012. REUTERS/Rogan Ward