In and Out: A rock-solid knock in a Greek tragedy

2015-03-01 15:00

Amid the euphoria of Proteas captain AB de Villiers surpassing his personal best on Friday – in the World Cup group match against the West Indies and scoring the fastest 150 in ODI history – there was something tragic with every mistimed leap and dropped catch from the opposition team.

The tragedy was twofold.

First, when De Villiers scored the fastest 100 in ODI history just more than a month ago at the Wanderers, he did so against the same opposition.

On the surface, this would seem like a triumph for the world’s best 50-overs player, but a closer reading would lead one to conclude that De Villiers’ conquests are achievable only against a team that is not firing on all cylinders.

This especially comes to the fore when considering his lukewarm performance against a rock-solid India last week.

In fact, De Villiers’ top three scores in his career have all been against the West Indies.

Second, from a Windies’ perspective, seeing Chris Gayle bowled out for three runs just a few days after racking up the highest score in a World Cup and the fastest ODI double-century, was nothing short of witnessing the unfolding of an epic Greek tragedy.

Why is it that a team with such a rich cricketing history (remember, the Windies won the cricket World Cup twice in the 70s when South Africa was still stuck in the Dark Ages) can’t pull things together to reach a semblance of consistency?

This doesn’t even take into account the tragic circumstances under which the West Indies lost Friday’s match.

Two of their batsmen went out by means of dubious umpiring en route to boosting South Africa’s net run rate in their near-pathetic attempt at chasing down a massive 408. The Windies eventually fell short by 257 runs, the highest losing margin in a World Cup.

It goes to show that – in the unforgiving world of sport – “rich histories” serve none other than statisticians in their pursuit of justifying betting odds.

And luckily for the Proteas, South Africa’s cricketing history on the world stage is almost nonexistent, like Wayne Parnell’s supposed talent or Dale Steyn’s sense of a good hairstyle.

On Friday, when Quinton de Kock went out for 12 (his top score so far in the tournament), many probably thought the top order would collapse in the same fashion as their previous two matches. But steady 60s from Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis laid the groundwork for De Villiers to shine against what is statistically his favourite rivals.

A look at the team sheet might have suggested the Proteas had a good chance of winning.

Vernon Philander’s absence because of a hamstring injury might have been troubling on the back of Gayle’s monstrous double-ton in the previous game.

But it was heartening that Parnell was dropped after being solely responsible for allowing India to ease their way through the back door last Sunday. That was also tragic, but the routing the South Africans received in that game was thoroughly deserved.

In matches that count, tragedy has a higher strike rate against South Africa than De Villiers has against the Windies.

Let’s hope the luck of the Irish doesn’t lead to misfortune for South Africa when the two sides square off on Tuesday, so that the tragedy we’ve witnessed thus far doesn’t lead to a typical Proteas farce.

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