In & Out: Hunger trumps spectre of the choke

2014-10-19 15:00

Sunday afternoon. I was sitting at home, beer in one hand, remote control in the other. Because it was a week of Afcon, Euro and other qualifiers, there was sadly no English Premier League action to watch.

The void left by this was indescribable, like a lover having run off just when things were starting to look promising. With Arsenal and Aston Villa currently sitting around mid-table, one can only be optimistic that come the end of the season, the two perennial beta clubs will be vying for the third and fourth spots; and if they’re not careful, maybe even the top two.

But I sense I’m getting ahead of myself here.

As I lamented what could have been, I flipped through the channels ¬– Lewis Hamilton being celebrated by the British media for becoming the “only British F1 driver to blah blah blah”; repeats ad nauseam of the Bafana Bafana game (although it still fills me with pride when I think back to how our Boys Boys went up to Congo-Brazzaville, beat the Red Devils and returned home Ebola-free to play for the draw on Wednesday night); and, of course, the one I finally settled on, Pakistan vs Australia in the second one-day international of the series in Dubai.

After Australia opted to bat first, Pakistan showed just how well they can bowl and field, restricting the Aussies to 231, with only Steve Smith and dangerous David Warner scoring half-centuries.

Pakistan then went into bat and at first seemed to be chasing down the total rather sensibly – until?…?bam! A lucky run-out to dismiss Sarfraz Ahmed, and some great anticipation and improvisation from Smith at first slip to dismiss Fawad Alam for a duck off Xavier Doherty’s bowling turned the game on its head.

As this transpired, we once again got to witness Pakistan’s uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of you-know-what.

It’s a mode of play the Proteas know all too well. So often our boys style themselves as the alphas of the neatly trimmed oval savannah, only to stutter at the back end of the innings. And that’s something they should be mindful of as they go into respective series against New Zealand and Australia.

The Aussies, in particular, know how to chase the win. Their never-say-die attitude, as noxious as it may be, is what leads them to so many victories.

With the odds stacked against them in the match against Pakistan on Sunday, they could have easily rolled over and taken what was coming, but they chose to stand up, bowl and field smart, and pound the Pakistanis into submission to take the three-match series.

But the boys in green and gold will be looking to put the spectre of the choke well behind them, and perhaps their unnerved performance in Zimbabwe a couple of months ago is a sign of good things to come – a sign of a team hitting its stride and ready to knock the opposition flat on

its back.

After landing in New Zealand this week, Proteas one-day international skipper AB de Villiers (who is also nominated in the Sports Star of the Year category at this year’s SA Sport Awards, by the way) said New Zealand were a side to watch heading into the series and, indeed, next year’s World Cup.

“They haven’t won a big tournament or a big series for a while, so they must be very motivated to do well,” he was quoted as saying.

I suspect AB can relate. – stuart.longbottom@citypress.co.za

@Longbottom_69 is an armchair cricket critic.

He’s taking a long walk, but will return

on November 1

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