Kass Naidoo

Match-winning five-wicket Hall

2007-04-18 09:00

Kass Naidoo

South Africa's Cricket World Cup campaign has been "consistently inconsistent" (to quote fellow News24 columnist, Archie Henderson), but last night, despite the mountain of negative publicity surrounding them, the Proteas played to their potential and booked a place in the semi-finals.

Thankfully, Graeme Smith didn't have to decide whether it was best to bowl or bat first on the bouncy Kensington track, as Michael Vaughan won the toss and surprisingly opted to bat.

South Africa often talk about brave cricket, and yesterday they made a brave decision to leave Makhaya Ntini out in favour of Charl Langeveldt.

What would the reaction have been had South Africa not bowled England out for 154 and thumped them by nine wickets?

It was a dream bowling performance from South Africa, whose 'one-paced attack' shouldn't have posed too many problems for Vaughan's men.

Shaun Pollock was outstanding with the new ball, denying England any momentum in the opening overs.

Best-ever

But it was Andrew Hall who provided the surprise element, when he shook up the middle overs with outstanding seam bowling, taking four wickets for nine runs inside three overs to rip the heart out of England's line-up.

He finished with 5-18 in 10 overs; the best-ever bowling figures by a South African at a CWC. Just rewards for a man who just a few months ago wasn't sure of his place in the national side, but kept persevering.

Smith's captaincy was lauded by commentators as he kept a suffocating pressure on England by rotating his new-look attack, on a track that could have been made in South Africa.

Some would have cautioned him against mentioning 'arch-enemy' Kevin Pietersen before the match, but he was quoted: "We'll look to knock him over early. We have plans for him as we have for everyone else." And it worked.

With Pietersen back in the hut for three, SA went about dismantling England's middle order with precision, and when the dust cleared, the last two wickets only put on 33 runs.

Finished off the job

Chasing 155, Smith and AB de Villiers started like a runaway train.

After de Villiers departed, Smith and Jacques Kallis finished off the job with 30 overs to spare.

Unless something extraordinary happens in the remaining matches, SA will face Australia in a first-plays-fourth semi-final in St Lucia, on a slow and low pitch.

Selection is the hot topic: Will Makhaya remain on the sidelines, and will Justin Kemp find himself there too? Will Robin Peterson get the nod?

Right now, these questions will have to wait, as we celebrate a remarkable third semi-final spot in 15 years.

Let's hope the players can let off some 'steam' (to quote the captain) without more early-morning calls by amateur paparazzi to local radio stations.

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

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