Sport

Cricket T20: A little luck goes a long way for the Proteas

By Lynn Butler 22 November 2013

South Africa got a lucky break in the first T20 against Pakistan when they won the game on the Duckworth-Lewis method. JP Duminy said the team “got away with murder” when the rain came down. The two sides will be at it again at Newlands on Friday, and South Africa, with its inconsistent batting, will need to step up as the team continues preparations for next year’s World T20. BY LYNN BUTLER.

South Africa led the two-match T20 series against Pakistan 1-0 after beating the visitors by four runs thanks to the Duckworth-Lewis method on Wednesday. Despite this, the Proteas head into the final of the T20 series with a shaky start.

South Africa’s first eight overs got off to a blistering start with Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla’s partnership of 72 off 42 balls, but things went pear-shaped following their foundation. Man of the match, De Kock smashed 48 off 33 balls before falling into the hands of Mohammad Hafeez off Sohail Tanvir. South Africa was 81 for two after 9.4 overs.

After the dismissal of both opening batsmen, carnage began as the Proteas lost wickets in quick succession and were smothered by Pakistan’s spinners. The hosts slugged their way to 153, thanks to a helpful performance from David Miller and Morné Morkel at the rear-end total, which is way below par for scores at a ground which has seen T20 totals of over 200.

Pakistan were rocked by two late injuries; with Shoaib Malik and Abdul Razzaq out injured, they had a mere 13 players to choose from. It’s the kind of thing which would leave most teams quivering, but Pakistan continued their never-say-die fight and put in an impressive showing against a South African side which has been far superior to them for most of the last two months.

Despite the world’s number-two ranked T20 player, Saeed Ajmal, not featuring in the game on Wednesday, the visitors troubled the hosts with impeccable line and length, pegging back South Africa’s blitzkrieg start from over 10 runs an over to just over six in the latter stages of their innings.

South Africa had their backs against the wall and looked to be struggling on a chasing ground. Two wickets fell for 60 before heavy rain delayed the match, which was subsequently abandoned with South Africa declared the victors.

“Look, I think we’ll be the first ones to admit that it was definitely below par performance for us all around. We started very well with the bat, it was a good foundation that we set but we lost our way through the middle and in the back-end,” said JP Duminy.

“We got away with murder there with the rain coming the way it did. We’ll take it. We’ve been on the wrong side with those sorts of games quite often, so to be on the right side is definitely a good feeling.”

A man whose inclusion in the side has been questioned and debated, Henry Davids, failed to make an impact with the bat, scoring just three. He was subsequently released from the side to play for his franchise in a four-day game, a move which won’t inspire much confidence in the T20 specialist.

Skipper Faf du Plessis said on Wednesday that Davids remained in their plans, but with just 18 runs in six games in 2013, with a top score of seven. Davids, predominately an opening batsman, has batted fifth and sixth for the team and this may have resulted his bad performance in the T20 outfit. Duminy, though, thinks it is simply the way of the modern game.

“A lot of us came into the team when we generally didn’t bat where we would’ve liked. Like for myself, batting for the Cobras I was always at number three or four and I came into the South African [side batting at number] five and six, [so] we needed to adjust. That’s how international cricket goes; we have to take every opportunity and hopefully he will do that in the near future,” said Duminy.

The Proteas were lucky to escape with a win, after a disappointing batting display in the middle overs and giving away loose deliveries with the ball in hand. With multiple delays in-between overs, such as the umpires taking long to change balls and the covering of the sightscreen. One wonders whether Pakistan might’ve pushed through and managed those vital six runs and to win the game before rain fell from the Highveld night sky.

South Africa look to seal their last T20 match of the year and secure another series win with a victory. Pakistan, on the other hand, are looking to get on the other side of their luck, having yet to win a T20 match throughout their entire summer with the South Africans.

Newlands hosts the final T20 on Friday, and the last time a match of this format was played here, South Africa suffered a five-wicket defeat at the hands of Australia. With the hosts looking for momentum to carry into the one-day series beginning on Sunday as well as fine-tuning their team preparations for the World T20 next year, there is no better time to exorcise past ghosts than Friday’s clash. DM

Photo: Quinton de Kock plays a shot by Bilawal Bhatti of Pakistan during their first Twenty20 cricket match in Johannesburg. (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)

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