Once panic sets in on the pitch, the slippery slope only gets muddier

2011-01-17 00:00

AS a demonstration on how to snatch defeat from the giant jaws of victory, the Proteas monumental meltdown on Saturday night will take some beating.

A one-run defeat to India, in normal circumstances, is no great shame. They are a half-decent side, after all.

But, having been 152 for 4 chasing just 190, the Proteas really should have strolled to victory at the Wanderers.

Skipper Graeme Smith said there were some ‘interesting’ decisions taken by his middle-order.

That much is true, though even more interesting will be the stance the Proteas take with a middle-order that is unquestionably talented, but whose temperament was highly questionable when it really mattered.

And it had all started so well for Smith and company. The rain that had bucketed down stayed away, and they managed to keep India’s strong batting card to below 200.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who was on the verge of emotional breakdown, such was his luck — or lack thereof — in the Test series, was outstanding with the ball.

Smith gave him the new ball, and the left-armer helped himself to career-best figures of 4-22.

He may lack a yard of pace in the unforgiving environment of Test cricket, but his subtle changes of pace and length are doing wonders in the shorter format.

South Africa were sharp and incisive in the field, and David Miller’s run-out of the dangerous Virat Kohli was a perfect example of a team in fine fettle.

Sachin Tendulkar, who equalled Sanath Jayasuriya’s record of 444 ODI innings, was strangely becalmed as he made a 44-ball 24.

It later emerged that the genius is nursing a hamstring injury, which will be a major concern with the World Cup a month away. He will continue his rehabilitation back home.

India’s innings never really got out of third gear, as Tsotsobe, Dale Steyn (2 for 35) and Johan Botha (1 for 35) kept a lid on the runs.

“I thought it was a good pitch, and that we were probably 40 runs short of a decent total,” the forthright MS Dhoni admitted after the dramatic finish.

Even after the Proteas had lost Hashim Amla quickly, they still looked in control.

Colin Ingram (25) found a bit more fluency, while Smith (77) spent some welcome time in the middle.

When they added 59, the game looked set to meander to a predictable conclusion.

When Ingram was trapped in front by Harbhajan Singh, AB de Villiers followed soon after, to make things a bit twitchy.

But, with Smith still there with Duminy, it all still seemed like a doddle.

Duminy’s smear to long-on was, as Smith would say, interesting, while Miller made the cardinal sin of getting set — and then getting out.

It was down to inexperience, but the Proteas should have still had enough to put the game to bed.

The run-out of Steyn showed what pressure can do to even the coolest of customers. Once panic sets in, the slippery slope only gets muddier.

By the time Wayne Parnell slapped the last ball of the 43rd over to a jubilant Yuvraj Singh, those who had seen Edgbaston in 1999, and Kingsmead in 2003 probably knew what was coming.

It should never have come to that, but it did. Of course, the result means very little in the bigger scheme of things. There are still three games in the series.

But, the nature of the loss will have many chewing their food ever slower, to avoid any mention of the dreaded “c-word”. The World Cup squad gets named on Wednesday, and though the make-up of that list is pretty concrete, the selectors might just start wondering if they need a few wise heads to deal with similar “emergencies”.

SCOREBOARD

Toss: India

India innings

M. Vijay c Morkel b Tsotsobe16

S. Tendulkar b Botha24

V. Kohli run out (Miller)22

Y. Singh c Steyn b Tsotsobe53

MS Dhoni b Tsotsobe38

S. Raina lbw b Tsotsobe11

R. Sharma lbw b Morkel9

H. Singh c Miller b Morkel3

Z. Khan c Tsotsobe b Steyn0

A. Nehra c Botha b Steyn1

M. Patel not out6

Extras: (lb4, w3)7

TOTAL: (all out)190 — 47.2 overs

Fow: 1-21 (Vijay 7.6), 2-63, 3-67, 4-150, 5-169, 6-172, 7-177, 8-179, 9-184, 10-190

Bowling: Steyn 9,2-1-35-2 (1w), Tsotsobe 10-2-22-4, Parnell 7-0-43-0 (1w), Morkel 8-0-32-2, Botha 10-0-35-1, Duminy 3-0-19-0 (1w)

South Africa innings

H. Amla c Dhoni b Patel4

G. Smith b Patel77

C. Ingram lbw b Harbhajan25

AB de Villiers c Dhoni b Nehra8

JP Duminy c Vijay b Sharma13

D. Miller c sub (Chawla) b Khan27

J. Botha lbw b Khan4 (7b)

W. Parnell c Yuvraj b Patel12

D. Steyn run out (Vijay)6

M. Morkel c sub (Pathan) b Patel6

L. Tsotsobe not out 1

Extras: (lb5, w1)6

TOTAL:(all out) 189 — 42.6 overs

Fow: 1-7, 2-66, 3-77, 4-120, 5-152, 6-160, 7-163, 8-177, 9-188, 10-189

Bowling: Khan 9-0-37-2, Patel 8-0-28-4, Nehra 7-1-44-1, Harbhajan 10-0-32-1, Raina 6-0-27-0, R Sharma 2-0-12-1, Yuvraj 1-0-3-0 (1w)

Result: India won by one run

The five-match series is level 1-1

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