Kass Naidoo

Bat or bowl? Smith wants help

2007-03-22 13:51

Kass Naidoo

I had to chuckle the other day when World Cup presenter Mark Nicholas interviewed Shaun Pollock prior to the Proteas' first match against the Netherlands.

Nicholas took a dig at South Africa's poor showing in previous World Cups.

Pollock dryly responded with a dose of sarcasm: "Thanks for reminding us, Mark!"

His sense of humour was so refreshing, and it shows how much the Proteas have grown up over the past few years. The team have played some of their best ODI cricket of late, and they head into Saturday's clash against Australia ranked number one in the world.

They've made it clear they're in no mood for a verbal battle with the Aussies or anyone else, and have stuck to their plan by performing clinically and professionally on the field.

That is why I'm surprised at how Ricky Ponting rose to Sunil Gavaskar's verbal onslaught of the Australian team, and frankly, it got pretty ugly.

Force

Gavaskar accused the Aussies of poor on-field behaviour, and Ponting hit back calling the Indian legend high and mighty.

Is it a sign that the world champions are feeling a bit rattled, since they are no longer that ultra-dominant force in world cricket?

The spat has quietened down somewhat, but what hasn't, is the hype surrounding Saturday's crunch clash between the Proteas and Australia.

From filling station attendants to newspaper sellers to housewives, everyone seems to have a plan of how South Africa can beat Australia.

Bat first, send Boucher up the order, pick a spinner; the advice has come in faster than Makhaya Ntini's express deliveries.

Many fans have been encouraged by the way in which South Africa swept aside the Netherlands and Scotland, but some feel that these were two lightweight teams which South Africa were expected to soundly beat.

Surprised

Graeme Smith is adamant both matches provided opportunity for experimentation, and has indicated that the information gathered will help them shape their game plans for the Aussies.

Against the Netherlands, the Proteas chose to bat, piled on 353 for three in 40 overs and went on to win by 221 runs. In the match against Scotland, Smith surprised many by choosing to field first.

At the post match presentation, he said he wanted to see how his bowlers coped with the pressure of bowling at the death, and how the batsmen handled chasing a total at Warner Park.

Well, the bowlers struggled at the death, prompting many to question the composition of their attack, and their ability to bowl a side out.

Difficult to defend

But the batsmen were again at their brutal best, getting the required 186 to win with more than 26 overs to spare.

By Wednesday morning, talk was that Smith would put his faith in his batsmen and opt to chase if he won the toss on Saturday, mostly because the grounds are small and it's difficult to defend.

There's also a feeling that South Africa have no option but to chase, because their bowling attack is too pedestrian, and they're likely to opt for a starting XI that doesn't include spinner Robin Peterson.

What would you do if you were Graeme Smith?

  • Kass Naidoo is editor of gsport... for Girls!

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