Cricket: SA loses the battle, but not the war

AB de Villiers looked completely unfazed when South Africa lost to Pakistan by six wickets in the ICC warm-up match on Monday. The game had no official status and didn’t count for much, so for the skipper, getting the time out in the middle was all that really mattered. ANTOINETTE MULLER reports from The Oval in London.

For all intents and purposes, South Africa playing Pakistan at The Oval on Monday was meaningless. The match had no official status, and none of the numbers counted towards averages of players. Even the result itself will be a phantom in the record books, which might be a good thing for South Africa, even though they insist they got what they wanted.

“It’s never nice to lose like we did today, but you’ve got to take these warm-up games in the right kind of mindset. It’s not really about the result; it’s about what you get out of it. I was happy about the game in Holland, but the competitiveness wasn’t as high as it was today,” AB de Villiers said on Monday.

Nonetheless, South Africa’s seven-wicket loss in the warm up match at the Oval on Monday will leave many scratching their heads ahead of the tournament starting on Thursday. De Villiers didn’t shy away from admitting his chargers were slow to get out of the blocks. Teams were allowed to play 15 players, even though only 11 were allowed on the field at any given time. This allowed batsmen to get time out in the middle and bowlers to try their hand at bowling in English conditions.

“We were a little short on competitiveness and we were slow to adapt this morning when the ball moved around a bit and took a while to get going. I’m comfortable with where the boys are at; watching the guys in the net, they’re all in good form. Once we get going in this tournament, I think each guy will stand up, and the bowlers are looking good too. Everybody got a nice session out today. I’m happy with what we took out of today,” the skipper said.

A wealth of poor shot-selection led to the Proteas’ undoing upfront, and while a lot of that might simply be down to the cobwebs needing some clearing away after time away from international cricket, South Africa will have to hope that they’ve got an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner to do the job before their first match against India on Thursday.

Save for the 94-run partnership between JP Duminy and Ryan McLaren, the Proteas had seemingly forgotten how to construct meaningful partnerships. Duminy’s 43 off 91 was encouraging, though. Laborious as it might have been, he proved that his return against the Netherlands wasn’t just a flash in the pan. He looked mature amidst some childish cricket, and even if this knock wasn’t quite match-winning, it certainly spared South Africa some blushes.

In 50 overs, South Africa managed to post just 202, their efforts constantly curtailed by some clever bowling from Pakistan on a track which had very little to offer for the bowlers. It was a match which spent a lot of time simply going through the motions instead of actually getting into motions, with a  pitiful pedestrian pace all-round. The only thing that kept the players awake must have been the constant noise coming from the sparse Pakistan crowd.

Dale Steyn looked particularly out of sorts, perhaps because of stiffness in his back. The pace ace had been struggling with it for a while and left the field for treatment on Monday. He will be further assessed on Tuesday morning before a decision is made on his availability for the first match.

South Africa didn’t have much time to assess options and try out combinations, despite players getting some good time out in the middle. De Villiers, however, reckons that the team is pretty much set on its starting XI after assessing conditions and statistics at Cardiff.

One of the conditions to South Africa’s advantage is that the ball does not deteriorate as much in England. With two new balls up front and two bouncers allowed per over, the Proteas will be looking to use that to their advantage as much as possible. Much has been said about only four fielders being allowed outside the 30-yard circle, but De Villiers believes the rule changes have made the game much more exciting.

“The two new balls and the two bouncers per over as certainly changed the game. But it’s also quite tough to play with four outside the ring. As long as you approach the game with an attacking mindset as a bowler and keep picking up wickets, you’ll do well. It’s made the whole game more entertaining,” De Villiers said.

Pakistan’s batsmen, meanwhile, looked impressive, and both Imran Farhat and Mohammed Hafeez gave the South African bowlers a good workout. Still, reading into the result too much won’t do anybody any good. Both sides still have a lot of work to do before their first matches, and while results usually speak volumes on paper, perhaps they whisper for warm-up matches.


  • South Africa 202/9 (50 ov)
  • Pakistan 207/4 (45.3 ov)
  • Pakistan won by 6 wickets (with 27 balls remaining) DM

Photo: Pakistani’s Mohammad Irfan (L) celebrates the dismissal of South Africa’s batsman Farhaan Behardien with teammates after he was caught out by Saeed Ajmal during their final one-day international (ODI) cricket match in Benoni March 24, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko