England teach Proteas a lesson in sticking to the basics

2013-06-19 19:31

England 179/3 (Trott 82*, Root 48, Kleinveldt 1/10, Duminy 1/27) beat South Africa 175 (Miller 56*, Kleinveldt 43, Peterson 30, Tredwell 3/19, Broad 3/50, Anderson 2/14) by seven wickets

South Africa may not have choked, but played some seriously poor cricket as they exited the Champions Trophy at the semi-final stage.

They may be a test-match force but in pyjamas they are defenceless baby antelopes in lion territory. These exits have now become the norm rather than the exception.

Jonathan Trott and Joe Root ensured there would be no flutters as their 104-run partnership snuffed whatever life the Proteas had from them. From 41/2, most teams could have pressed panic buttons but such was the duo’s calm approach that England never looked like losing the match. They gave South Africa a template for dealing with difficult conditions.

There was not much to shout about when it came to England’s innings but when they lost Alastair Cook and Ian Bell early, good but false hopes rose for the Proteas. The home side is not the flashiest team going around but they stick to basics very well. Irrespective of the match situation, they do not move from what works for them. Most of the time, the team that does the basics very well ends on top.

It was not choking but a combination of mindless batting and a shocking lack of responsibility from the senior players that led to South Africa’s demise. Conditions were ripe for swing bowling but at no stage where they outrightly loaded in the bowlers’ favour. Even in good conditions, bowlers need to do the basics well to get the wickets. In a session that was filled with wickets, that is what England did. South Africa, on the other hand, did their best not to dispel their “chokers” tag through some batting that belong on the psychologist’s couch. In today’s case, not even the best psychologist would have cured the demons in the Proteas’ heads. The fact that the young David Miller played the clearest-headed innings is damning of South Africa’s senior players’ inability to rise to the occasion.

The conditions were ripe for James Anderson to make hay and he only needed five balls to make his presence felt, nipping out Colin Ingram leg before. Hashim Amla’s leave/nick off Steven Finn highlighted South Africa’s already frazzled state of mind. South Africa were caught in two minds on whether to attack or defend when the conditions called for consolidatory cricket. Credit has to be given to the horses-for-courses English attack, which exploited the conditions expertly.

Robin Peterson’s counter-attacking 41-ball innings seemed to make a mockery of the conditions but a pinch hitter was the last thing that was required from the visitors. When he was trapped in front by the menacing Anderson, South Africa was 45/3 and the dice seemed to be up.

AB de Villiers’ dismissal, which left South Africa tottering at 50/4, reeked of the lack of Big Match Temperament and irresponsibility. In all their chokes, except for the 2002 Champions Trophy semi-final, there has been buck-passing that can only rival the South African government.

50/4 then became 80/8 as Proteas’ batsman after Proteas played Russian roulette with a loaded revolver.

It was up to a 95-run stand between Miller and Rory Kleinveldt to give the total a veneer of respectability. Unfortunately that has never won matches.

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