Like a tyre with a slow puncture, South Africa lost its oomph in slow, excruciating fashion. Sloppy bowling, unnecessary run-outs and a general lack of vooma – it all led to the hosts losing to New Zealand by 27 runs in the second one-day international in Kimberley on Tuesday.
New Zealand thus claimed its first ODI series win in South Africa, ever. And amid mutterings of the c-word, there’s also the reality that the Proteas simply have not clicked as a one-day unit. Despite sprinklings of promise, they have simply failed to live up to their potential.
If you believe in omens, you would have taken the toss as such. Faf du Plessis flopped with the coin on his first try. The toss was retaken and Du Plessis won it, choosing to bowl.
Marin Guptill, in all his inept glory, played out a ten-ball duck before Rory Kleinveldt put him out of his misery. BJ Watling then followed as Morne Morkel did the damage, dismissing him for just 12.
Things were soon to change, though. Enter Kane Williamson. There wasn’t anything fancy about Williamson’s unbeaten 145 off 136; it was just good, basic cricket. Williamson held his cool, put away the bad balls and squeezed every bit of life out of the middle overs. By his side was his partner, Grant Elliot, who put 48 off 63 on the board for a 127-run partnership which set the foundation for New Zealand’s first innings total of 279-8.
South Africa’s bowlers looked flat far too often. While Lonwabo Tsotsobe once again proved his importance to the Proteas set up, with his 10-2-38-2 – most crucially picking up two wickets for 13 runs in his last three overs – he simply wasn’t backed up by his partners. Du Plessis only had so much to work with, and you cannot captain somebody out of having a bad day at the office.
New Zealand set up a solid total on a solid pitch, but after they chose to bowl, there were undoubtedly a few strops thrown in the dressing room at half time. The hairdryer treatment – from wherever it came – did seem to work, however (for the start of South Africa’s innings, anyway).
With Hashim Amla out due to injury, rookie Quinton de Kock was promoted up the order to open the batting with Graeme Smith.
The youngster started well, but Kyle Mills landed a peach of a delivery on his middle stump, and he was on his way after a fiery start, scoring 25 off just 28 balls, including two sixes and one four.
Smith and Ingram then looked to be cruising. South Africa was in control and looked like its players would knock off the runs with some overs to spare.
Not so, though. Smith’s was the first wicket in a comedy of errors which left South Africa with its pants down. Ingram cut the ball away short of third man and the batsmen attempted to run three, which didn’t really work. James Franklin managed a fine throw from the deep, and despite Smith’s valiant diving effort, the former skipper was sent on his way.
Ingram continued to plunder along and so did the comedy. Du Plessis lasted just three balls after he, too, was run out. Cutting to extra cover, the skipper wanted a run, but Ingram sent him back and this time it was Nathan McCullum whose under-arm throw rattled the stumps.
The umpire at square leg didn’t even need to refer it upstairs, and despite a snarl from the skipper, the umpire sent him on his way, with replays showing it to be a spot-on decision.
By now, fans would have heard circus music playing, because the game was becoming comically predictable. For supporters of South Africa, there was little to do but laugh ruefully.
Ingram then departed, fortunately not run out; and while there was still some hope, a seemingly familiar stranglehold had started to tighten around South Africa’s necks.
The hosts then lost three wickets for five runs as they collapsed with spectacular finesse, with Rory Kleinveldt’s run-out being the epitome of a rather comical performance. Kleinveldt looked like he might be able to complete the single, but he lost his bat while trying to ground it and it fell out of his hand just before the crease, leaving him short of the mark.
The little train that once could continued to run out of steam and the Proteas eventually imploded, all out for 252.
If the Proteas wanted to see just how far their batting depth went and whether they were on the right track ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy in England, they now have their answer: this approach is going nowhere fast and it’s time for a serious rethink. Or maybe they just need some more one-on-one sessions with Paddy Upton to get their heads straight.
New Zealand 279-8 (50 overs)
Kane Williamson 145* (136), Grant Elliot 48 (84), Rory Kleinveldt 10-2-45-2, Lonwabo Tsotsobe 10-2-38-2
South Africa 252 all out (49.1 overs)
Graeme Smith 66 (75), Collin Ingram 79 (94), Kyle Mills 9-2-28-2, James Franklin 10-0-52-1 DM
Photo: South Africa’s Faf du Plessis hits a shot during their Twenty20 World Cup Super 8 cricket match against India in Colombo October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
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