Sport

The little flowers that couldn’t: Proteas must save face

By Ant Sims 24 January 2013

After New Zealand claimed a series win on South African soil for the first time ever, South Africa has only got pride left to play for in the final match on Friday. While the Proteas have had some unfortunate losses to the squad, the performance of the new faces hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. By ANT SIMS.

For the last few weeks, with all the shorter format games played against New Zealand, there has been one resounding theme which echoed through press conferences: the Proteas are looking towards the future.

And look to the future they should. South Africa has a busy year of one-day internationals ahead of it, including an ICC tournament in England in June. Yet while the Test team has been running riot for the past few months, the one-day side has been stumbling over hurdles time and time again. If that is the future for the ODI side, it’s a pretty grim picture.

That the side is inexperienced and young, there is no doubt. There were four new caps in the squad and to expect them to immediately set the world on fire would be foolish. But one does expect a squad of such calibre, with players rated so highly on the domestic circuit, to at least be able to start a fire with the flint and charcoal they’ve been handed.

From losing some gas in the bowling to some silly running between the wickets and an apparent lack of interest, South Africa’s performance has not been up to scratch, and the team has just one match to save itself from a potentially embarrassing series whitewash on home turf.

Such a loss would be the first of its kind on home soil and while, at the start of the ODI series, it might have seemed like a delusion, it’s now a distinct reality. The hosts will still be without the services of AB de Villiers for the final ODI, with the skipper still missing out owing to suspension because of a slow over rate. There’s also no Hashim Amla or Robin Peterson, either, with both players out due to injury.

The experience the side is left with is very thin, and the Proteas are staring down the barrel of a water pistol.                

Out of the 57 matches the two sides have played against each other, South Africa has lost 20 now, including the two most recent losses. Meanwhile, plenty has been said about whether the Proteas disrespected their opposition or underestimated their grit.

Colin Ingram, however, doesn’t think there was any of that involved. He reckons it’s the Black Caps’ nature to put up a fight when they need to.

“I don’t think it’s a case of underestimating them. We’ve run into them a few times in the past and they’re always a competitive unit,” said Ingram.

A lot has also been said about the Proteas’ reaction to the loss on Tuesday. Cameras panned to laughing faces, a reaction which, understandably, outraged many. But sometimes laughter is a natural reaction to trauma and shock, and Ingram’s reaction to what exactly went wrong on Tuesday said it all.

“It’s difficult to put your finger on what went wrong,” the batsman said, before slipping out of his pristine media-trained responses and stuttering out some uncomfortable “ja, ja’s”.

“I don’t really have too many words on what went wrong. There were a few things that were out of our control, like the ball not bouncing our way,” Ingram said, perhaps clutching at straws and looking for some explanation that wouldn’t involve admitting that South Africa was simply poor.

It took him a few seconds to come to, though, and he admitted that the Proteas threw away a good position. He later on admitted he didn’t sleep very well last night.

Getting out on 79 after a rash shot, charging down the track and hitting the ball straight to mid-off just a few overs after your skipper was run out would give anybody sleepless nights, and while Ingram can hardly be blamed for the catastrophe, there’s no doubt that he’s probably kicking himself just a little a bit, especially considering his seesaw ride in and out of the South African set-up.

The Proteas have been poor; there’s no way of sugar-coating it. And even with injuries, suspensions and new faces, they simply haven’t played up to their full potential. Nothing should be taken away from New Zealand, though; they did equally brilliantly to pick themselves up after a horrific start to their tour.

Still, one has come to expect more from the South African side, especially on the back of the Test team’s success.

If South Africa does lose the third and final ODI, the team would have slumped from first in the rankings at the start of the series to the sixth. While that might give an indication of just how utterly absurd the ranking system actually is, it surely will serve as a blaring wake-up call. And with the ICC Champions Trophy just around the corner, there’s no time to press the snooze button. DM

Photo by Reuters

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