In & Out: Earth to Proteas: 300 is the magic number

2014-11-23 15:00

In Albert Camus’ The Fall, Jean-Baptiste Clamence tells his anonymous listener: “Fortunately, there is gin, the sole glimmer in this darkness...”

The Proteas’ ODI performances of late have prompted me to recall, possibly even act on, this quote as I watched, almost gobsmacked, how it’s possible for a presummer “form side” to literally wilt when the real heat is on.

In the five-match ODI series against Australia thus far, the Aussies’ three victories have been convincing.

They took the first match last Friday after a helter-skelter Proteas batting performance fell short of their total of 300.

They narrowly went down in the following match on Sunday, defending a paltry 154 in the face of yet another iffy showing from the Proteas’ batsmen.

Then, on Wednesday, after having scored a massive 329, they completely hammered the Proteas’ batting line-up, sans Big Johnson, to nullify Hashim Amla’s steady ton and reclaim the advantage in the series.

Australia’s win on Wednesday was significant because it showed just how valuable putting 300-plus on the board can be when setting a target.

In the fourth match of the series on Friday, the Proteas looked set to breach the 300 mark, with AB de Villiers and David Miller looking solid in their partnership, which was eventually terminated on 122 runs when Miller was dismissed for 45, taking the score to 199/4.

It all went downhill from there.

AB was next to go on 91 and – surprise, surprise – a classic Proteas collapse ensued.

They ended up scoring a tepid 267/8 in their 50 overs and the rest is, well, history – a series loss as a result of a team not being able to get their act together to score 300.

The South African bowlers taunted us with a glimmer of hope, dispatching the Aussies’ first five batsmen with relative ease.

But Steve Smith and Matthew Wade, in typical Australian fashion, proved resolute in their chase, undeterred even by Wayne Parnell’s PE-chic topknot.

In 50-over chases of yore, a score in excess of 300 would more or less seal the deal.

But uppity batsmen like Herschelle Gibbs came along and defied that long-held psychological and physical barrier, and from their groundwork a new breed of batter has arisen.

Today, batsmen from the Gibbs School of Big and Quick Knocks – in the mode of AB, David Warner and Aaron Finch – have grown accustomed to setting high targets and treating big totals with contempt. But in this series anyway, the Proteas went back a decade or two.

But it seems in retrospect Proteas coach Russell Domingo was aware that some grey matter should have been applied in tandem with talent.

After the series loss on Friday, he was quoted as saying: “We probably didn’t play smartly enough. They were probably a lot cleverer than us at the end of innings.

“There’s a lot of learning for us there, particularly in that phase of the game.”

In The Fall, Clamence continues by asking in the same breath: “Do you feel the golden, copper-coloured light it [gin] kindles in you?”

Indeed I do, because at least when it comes to gin, there’s hardly ever any disappointment, unlike watching the Proteas not being “smart”.

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