Shafiek Abrahams

Hey umpire, give us a break

2006-05-05 13:54

Shafiek Abrahams

The second Test between South Africa and New Zealand will not be remembered as one of cricket's classic encounters, but it did produce some good moments.

The docile Newlands pitch was always going to favour the batsmen and the bowlers took some stick on what must have been the flattest pitch the Proteas have played on all summer.

Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming was one of a handful of players who took his 'chances' with both hands to cash in and make a big double hundred. He survived two very good LBW appeals early in his innings and was dropped by Boeta Dippenaar before adding exactly one hundred runs to that score he had at that moment of good fortune. A blatant nick to Mark Boucher afforded Nathan Astle the opportunity to register a half century after struggling to find form in recent visits to the crease.

Those chances could have changed the course of the match and maybe even justified Graeme Smith's decision in electing to bowl first on the flattest wicket we've seen for a long while. The catching problems continue to surface and they seem to occur most frequently in the slip cordon which is viewed as a specialist position.

Opportunities like these allow batsmen to find form while the odds are stacked against the bowlers. One has to feel sorry for players like Makhaya Ntini who give 150 percent in terms of effort only to see a catch go down off his bowling or an umpire missing a caught behind or LBW decision.

With a pitch suited to the batsmen, it's expected that top players will score heavily. Jacques Kallis playing in his 100th Test match for South Africa in front of his home fans must have kicked himself for not cashing in and converting his half century into yet another Test hundred. The poor shot he played in getting out must have disappointed him as much as it shocked spectators as Kallis has proven over the years to be a player who values his wicket more than most.

The Proteas top order all got starts but only Hashim Amla and Ashwell Prince converted their scores into centuries. Amla came into the team at the expense of Herschelle Gibbs and took his opportunity by recording his maiden Test century. He has his critics regarding his batting technique but proved that he can make it at the highest level. With Amla grabbing his chance with both hands, the pressure is mounting on fringe players hoping to break into the limited number of batting spots available in the Proteas Test line-up.

Ashwell Prince has now scored two centuries this season and has made the number five spot in the team his own. He has converted the majority of his starts into big scores and his conversion rate of fifties into hundreds is outstanding. Unbelievably the only occasion he failed to convert was when he was dismissed in the nineties.

Good players need few chances but great players will take the first opportunity afforded to them.

  • Shafiek Abrahams is a former Proteas spinner

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