POOL B | Thursday 12 March | Wellington | 03:00
The Proteas have one last opportunity to fine-tune a side that should have been decided upon months ago. South Africa cannot ask for more talent, they couldn’t have asked for better preparation prior to the tournament and have failed to address the one glaring strategic deficiency that has crept into their game following the 2011 World Cup; chasing under pressure. Since the last global tournament in which the Proteas imploded in pursuit of a modest Kiwi total, they have won less than half of the matches in which they have been forced to chase. Previously, South Africa won when chasing 60% of the time. While the UAE won’t prove stern resistance, it could be precisely the opposite of what South Africa need at the moment; a tough win against a tough side.
To Win Match
South Africa 1/50
The Proteas yet again folded under the stress and pressure of a chase in their last outing against a Pakistani side who clearly just ‘wanted it’ more. South Africa capitulated in the face of a special bowling display from the subcontinent nation and while credit must be given to the manner in which Pakistan attacked relentlessly with the ball, for South Africa to sink so alarmingly in pursuit of a modest target is clearly a state of mind. The Proteas have blown away the likes of Zimbabwe, West Indies and Ireland batting first, yet have lost convincingly when chasing both India and Pakistan, more established nations. The Proteas cannot hide from the fact that they frequently lose this battle. Captain AB de Villiers almost stole the match on his own but predictably ran out of luck and partners. It was mentioned how Pakistan rallied and indeed, played with an intensity not matched by South Africa. The desire to win was greater. How a South African side who left to such fanfare and have such horrible memories of the tournament cannot develop a steely resolve in the face of adversity is beyond me. Yes, the pressure is intense. While most sides soak it up, South Africa let it poison them from the inside.
This can be seen in the way they responded to a change in Pakistan’s attitude. Sides with big match temperament generally absorb the wave of confidence sweeping the opposition when they have their tails up. They do it with a dead bat and rotation of strike. They wait patiently for the boundary ball and dispatch it. South Africa responded with sheer, unadulterated panic. They played seven specialist batsmen in an attempt to lengthen their tail and lost most of them before they had eighty on the board. Playing eleven batsman won’t help if they all go out. The batsmen you have need to learn to consolidate and take the match deeper. Opener Quinton de Kock’s poor run of form continued and the UAE will be ‘last chance saloon’ for the youngster in this World Cup. Hit out or sit out.
Vernon Philander should make a return to the side following injury but Kyle Abbott has not made a straight swop easy. Abbott has the best stats of all the South African quicks in the tournament and can bowl well at the death. But the same old problem persists regardless; who shares some of Duminy’s ten overs? The problem with the balance of the Proteas side has become a crippling one. The selectors should have made a concrete decision in this regard a long time ago and stuck with it. Right or wrong, at least the side would’ve been clear in its objectives. They should opt to bat second against the UAE. Perhaps an easier chase will result in confidence for the knockout stages, but don’t count on it.
While the Proteas will be preparing for the knockout stages, the UAE will merely but looking to put in another good performance before their tournament swan song against the West Indies. They have acquitted themselves well so far despite not winning a match and will be desperate to pull off a shock victory before their competition concludes. Nicknamed “Sir Viv” in the UAE dressing room, Shaiman Anwar has no doubt been their star of the tournament. He has 270 runs in four matches with two fifties and a hundred but has been unable to prevent his nation being rooted to the bottom of the Pool B table. While they must lament a lack of cricket over the past four years, the UAE pushed a few sides closer than expected. They were unable to defend 285 against Zimbabwe and 278 against Ireland, but neither chase was easy. They were predictably blown away against India but managed 210 in reply to Pakistan’s 339. They won’t win this match but as is the mantra with all Associate nations, the experience will be invaluable.
Wellington has hosted two matches already in the tournament, both containing England. The English were first routed by New Zealand, being bowled out for 123 as Tim Southee swung his way to a seven-wicket haul. England then scored 309 against Sri Lanka but lost by nine wickets as Thirimanne and Sangakkara blazed centuries. The toss will probably prove an important one in terms of match flow as I can’t see much resistance from the UAE if the ball swings early in the day. The match is unlikely to be threatened by rain.
VERDICT: Top South Africa Batsman, Quinton de Kock 3/1
I’m obviously not recommending you back South Africa at such a short price. Your money will be safe, but the return a pitiful one. Rather look for value in the Best Batsman market. I’d be tempted to side with Anwar from the UAE but without a look at the price, I’m skeptical. Quinton de Kock needs runs more than anybody and something tells me he’ll get them. His desperation may be all the inspiration he needs to rack up a well played century here. It’s worth the risk. Get on.