South Africa started its Champions Trophy campaign with a 26-run loss against India. It was a day where nothing seemed to go the Proteas’ way. They can take heart from a select few batting performances, though, despite an almighty collapse which very nearly resembled the c-word. BY ANTOINETTE MULLER.
India continued to assert its dominance over South Africa in the Champions Trophy when they beat the Proteas by 26 runs in Cardiff on Thursday. The two sides have met thrice in the tournament and South Africa has never managed to beat India in competition. While the Proteas might take heart in the way their batters performed in the absence of some big names, it simply wasn’t their day.
When you start off your first game in a major tournament by losing your trump bowler, things are bound to go haywire. South Africa started its Champions Trophy campaign by losing Dale Steyn through injury, and despite winning the toss and choosing to bowl first under cloudy skies, India’s openers gave the Proteas a lesson in batting.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan set the foundation with what proved to be a match-winning partnership. The pair combined for 127 runs up front and, despite South Africa’s best efforts to prove that Indian batsmen are susceptible to the short ball, the Indian openers were having none of it and neutralised all threats with textbook finesse.
Sharma met his end in the 22nd over, trying to pull Ryan McLaren yet again, but this time he didn’t quite manage enough elevation and was sent on his way for 65 off 81. Dhawan, though, had other plans, and would go on to score a fine century while the South African bowlers toiled. He was eventually dismissed for 114 off 94, the highest score by any player at the ground.
It was one of those days where nothing went the South Africans’ way, and to add to their woes, Morne Morkel managed just 6.5 overs before he too was carted off with an injury. The quick picked up a quad strain and was unable to bowl any further, and although he stepped out to bat when his side was down and out, he’d probably have been better off throwing in the towel and ensuring he didn’t worsen his injury.
Despite India’s middle and lower order failing to take advantage of a flat track and some Mickey Mouse bowling, they posted 331-7 in 50 overs – an imposing target for any side, the highest ever at Cardiff.
South Africa’s bowling left little to write home about and when the bowlers failed to hit their lengths or make their breakthroughs, their body language took on something resembling leafy vegetables drenched in boiling water.
That South Africa had the ability to chase down the target, there was never any doubt. They just didn’t have the follow-through. With Alviro Petersen left out of the side, Colin Ingram was carted in at the top of the order to open the batting alongside Hashim Amla. It was a curious move at best, but curiosity killed the cat – and Ingram failed to make any impact as he was dismissed for six off five.
South Africa took a gamble and promoted Robin Peterson up the order. It wasn’t entirely surprising, though: he’d opened the batting for the Proteas before and has a reputation as a pinch-hitter. With the pinch on, somebody needed to dispatch it.
Peterson did what was asked of him. He hammered 68 off 72 until some fine fielding from Ravi Jadeja resulted in a run-out. Peterson jetted off before even looking where the ball had gone and Jadeja reacted sharply to fire in a throw to MS Dhoni behind the stumps, who whipped off the bails on the bounce – with Peterson already too far out of his crease to return.
De Villiers soldiered on and at 155-3, South Africa was still on course to make a fine chase of it, but it wasn’t to be. De Villiers sparked the collapse by charging out after a short ball which ended up top edged and caught. It was as if that move by the skipper had given the signal for the South Africans to pull the plug and start circling the drain.
South Africa looked out of its depth and a word which had once sent South Africans into a weeping mess was now sparking debate around its validity. Was it a choke? Perhaps. To start off a chase so strong and then start falling down certainly leaves something stuck in the throat. Especially considering the way in which many wickets fell: brainless shot selection and complete brainfades in running between the wickets left South Africa making life very difficult for itself. To lose five wickets for just 69 runs with a batting order that shares over 250 ODI caps is simply astonishing.
Ryan McLaren showed some resilience with the bat and fought valiantly for his unbeaten 71 off 61. He might insist that he’s nowhere near worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as colossal all-rounder Jacques Kallis, but he’s certainly proving that he’s worth his salt with both bat and ball.
South Africa now heads to Birmingham to face Pakistan in a must-win match on Monday. They can take heart from their batting, but with Steyn still in doubt and Morkel in trouble too, the Proteas have much to think about before that game. The dissection of this loss might need to be put on ice.
India 331/7 (50 ov)
South Africa 305 (50.0 ov)
India won by 26 runs DM
Photo: India’s Ishant Sharma bowls as South Africa’s A B de Villiers (L) and Bruce Oxenford (R) look on during the ICC Champions Trophy group B match against South Africa at Cardiff Wales Stadium in Cardiff, Wales June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown
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