Proteas rediscover their heat

2009-09-25 00:00

SOUTH Africa kept their interests in the Champions Trophy alive yesterday with a convincing five-wicket win over New Zealand at Centurion.

Man of the match Wayne Parnell continued to provide cheers and fears in equal measure, going for 57 runs, but snaring a first-ever five-wicket haul.

The Warriors youngster got the ball rolling early, removing big Jesse Ryder in the fourth over.

He added four further scalps, including the key wicket of Ross Taylor (72), just when he looked like propelling the Kiwis to a much more challenging score.

“I felt more comfortable out there today,” a beaming Parnell said after the match. “Obviously I still went for a few runs — well, a lot of runs — but it was great to get the five-wicket haul for the first time.”

Parnell, much like an expensive sports car, delivers moments of brilliance that make it all worthwhile. But he also hit the pocket quite hard in the first two matches.

Skipper Graeme Smith lavished praise on his young gun, saying he is proud of the way he bounced back after the tough baptism against Sri Lanka.

“I think all the bowlers deserved the credit for the way they started today, and from there it was a good team performance.”

After Smith put the Kiwis in, the slower pitch forced the usually cavalier Brendon McCullum to show more restraint as he squeezed out 44 runs from 68 balls.

The Kiwis start was solid if unspectacular, but the throttling efforts of Jacques Kallis, Johan Botha and the increasingly impressive Roelof van der Merwe saw the run rate tumble.

Such was the purchase off the pitch that Botha operated with a short leg for parts of his spell, while Van der Merwe beat the bat regularly with sharp turn and bounce.

Grant Elliott and Taylor added 71 before Van der Merwe got his just reward when he bowled Elliott, before trapping Neil Broom plumb in front soon after.

From there the onus was on Taylor to finish with a flourish, and he took a liking to Parnell’s fare in the final powerplay.

But Parnell had the last word, as three late wickets saw him record a maiden fiver in ODIs.

The South African chase saw Smith fall early, before Hashim Amla joined forces with a very positive Kallis.

The Proteas kingpin, looking fit after shedding “at least seven kilograms” during the off-season, drove imperiously, but fell for 36 just as he was threatening to finish in a hurry.

Amla, who seemed content with the anchor role, survived a tight run-out chance only to be trapped in front by Daniel Vettori on the next ball.

That opened the stage for local hero AB de Villiers to showcase his array of strokes. Such is his stature in the game, it is almost a bigger story if he fails to stamp his class on matches with his blade.

His undefeated 70 was decorated with dazzling on-drives and pulls as he saw his side home with plenty to spare. In this form, De Villiers’s ability to make tough shots look simple will be a huge asset for the Proteas.

In many ways, the pressure-free chase of 215 allowed several batsmen to get time in the middle, and most threatened to find decent form themselves.

Smith explained his reluctance to take the powerplay, saying the regular loss of wickets held him back.

“It obviously would have helped our net run-rate if we had won it a little earlier, but first prize for us was always the win.”

Smith has already turned his attentions to Sunday’s “massive game” against the English, which is another must-win for the Proteas.

“We are basically playing knockout cricket now, so it was great to see the guys put their hands up today.”

While most of the country celebrated the win with braai and beverages, the Proteas were steeling themselves for more intense training over the weekend.

But that’s just the way the boerewors bends for some people.

England face Mendis riddle, page 22.

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