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SA vs NZ: Proteas take a beating from the bat of Martin Guptill

SA vs NZ: Proteas take a beating from the bat of Martin Guptill

South Africa failed to capitalise on the momentum of winning the first one-day international against New Zealand as they suffered an eight-wicket defeat at the hands of the Black Caps on Sunday. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

After being pushed much closer than they would have liked in the first one-day international against New Zealand, South Africa’s captain AB de Villiers said the side was lacking “intensity”. If that’s the case, then it was as if the Proteas didn’t even bother to show up in Potchefstroom

But this should not come as a surprise. Since 2014, South Africa have been doing their best impression of Jekyll & Hyde on the pitch. They can often swing from intense highs to gut wrenching lows from match to match. In some cases, it can happen even in the same game as it did in the first one-day international.

On Sunday, South Africa were back to their worst. Winning the toss and choosing to bat first should have meant the home side stamped their authority right from the get go, but instead they sleepwalked their way through the first few overs. South Africa’s key batsmen, Hashim Amla, Rilee Rossouw and De Villiers failed to make any real impact and the pressure on the middle order swelled.

On a slow surface, South Africa found themselves 134-6 after 32.2 overs. Farhaan Behardien was the lone ranger trying to string partnerships together. Behardien managed a few and top scored with 70 off 87. Of all the batsmen, Behardien was perhaps the only player who managed to read the surface. While his score had little impact in the context of this match, aside from helping South Africa avoid utter humiliation, it could potentially be an important knock in the context of Behardien’s career.

The series itself might lack context, but the score won’t lack any context for Behardien. For a while now, he has existed on the fringes of this one-day team. South Africa haven’t a clue who their best XI in one-day cricket are yet and while that won’t matter in the short term, players who perform consistently cannot be ignored when it comes to the 2017 Champions Trophy. That is still a long way off, but consistency is built over months. For Behardien to out-perform some of the more experienced players is vital.

Although he might only be modestly talented, nobody can fault Behardien’s work ethic and his will to try. Once in a while, it takes just one good knock to get a monkey off your back and build towards something better, whether that will be the case for Behardien will remain to be seen, but it will certainly be a confidence boost.

In contrast, David Miller remains a liability. While there is no doubt that Miller is seriously talented and can produce some extraordinary innings, especially towards the latter part of the innings, he blows cold far more often than he blows hot. Technically, especially in terms of his footwork, he is dubious. Miller is either glued to the pitch or playing on his heels, something Graeme Smith believes is bogging down his progress.

An over-reliance on players like Amla and De Villiers means that there is little room for error from the players who aren’t as freakishly talented as South Africa’s leading batsmen. The Proteas will have to think long and hard about what to do about players like Miller as they ponder their squads for the tour of the sub-continent in October. Although bilateral series that aren’t played in a World Cup or Champions Trophy year might have little relevance, they should form part of a long-term plan and South Africa have to start playing their best XI together to ascertain how they click and allow for chemistry to develop.

Fortunately, they will have some time to ponder that but they will first have to assess where things went so terribly wrong on Sunday. A score of 204 on a sluggish pitch was  probably around 50 runs short of a defendable total and in situations where batsmen falter, the bowlers will always find themselves under extra pressure. South Africa opted for a two-spinner approach with Kagiso Rabada missing out, but there was little assistance for the tweakers and South Africa’s bowlers toiled against Tom Latham and Martin Guptill.  Unlike New Zealand’s seamers, who consistently hit good lengths, South Africa’s bowlers erred a little too often and the Black Caps won at a canter.

Luckily for South Africa, this series counts for nothing, but at least now the third and final one-day international will have some sort of motivation with the series all square. DM

Scorecard summary:

  • New Zealand won by eight wickets (with 33 balls remaining)
  • South Africa won the toss and elected to bat
  • South Africa 204 all out (49.3 overs): Farhaan Behardien 70 (87), Vernon Philander 30* (49); Doug Bracewell 10-0-31-3, Adam Milne 10-0-39-2
  • New Zealand 207-2 (44.3 overs): Martin Guptill 103* (134), Tom Latham 64 (81); Aaron Phangiso 10-1-37-1, Imran Tahir 10-1-42-1

Photo: New Zealand’s cricket players celebrate the dismissal of South Africa’s Rilee Rossouw (not in picture) during their second Twenty20 cricket match in Centurion August 16, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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