In & out: One swallow doesn’t make a summer

2014-09-06 14:55

Over the past few years, a pecking order of sorts had developed in world sports.

When the Spanish football team played, you always expected them to win – ditto the New Zealand rugby team, the Australian one-day cricket team, Manchester United, Tiger Woods and, of course, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

How the tides have turned in recent months, with the exception of the All Blacks, of course.

It seems we’re now at a crossroads, where what would have previously been considered ridiculous notions are being entertained as plausible. (Just the other day, I overheard someone saying Tottenham Hotspur are the dark horses to take the Premiership. This after just two victories in the nascent stage of the season.)

Another previously ridiculous notion was that of the Proteas sticking it to the Aussies in an ODI. How many times have we seen the boys in green and gold buckle in the run chase? It’s almost become expected that, when faced with a total of more than 300, they’ll become overawed by the occasion and collapse like a house of cards on a spring day at St George’s.

They haven’t earned the ignominious “chokers” tag for nothing, and they’re particularly used to having their tonsils tickled by the men in yellow from down under.

But on Wednesday, Faf du Plessis resisted his inclination for the draw and AB de Villiers refused to roll over. For once, they were the pounders and not the pounded. And it was glorious to behold.

De Villiers’ performance with the bat (136 not out) was reminiscent of Herschelle Gibbs’ 175 in the classic “438” match against Australia at the Wanderers in 2006.

The boys’ win on Wednesday wasn’t exactly the highest successful run chase in history, as was the case in 2006, but it was significant nevertheless.

Firstly because it might aid them in their quest to climb up the ICC rankings (they’re currently placed third after Australia and India), and secondly because, well, beating Australia at anything is as satisfying as “klapping a wettie” with the boys after a long day down the shaft.

Nothing should be taken away from De Villiers and Du Plessis’ glorious slogs on Wednesday. But what transpired on Friday after relatively solid batting performances by Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock – when Zimbabwe’s Prosper Utseya blitzed the Proteas’ middle order – is discomforting.

Where’s the consistency?

We bat well to beat the top-ranked side, then struggle against number?10. Shouldn’t endurance increase after the first round?

And then there’s the Proteas’ iffy bowling attack, which seemed to look the other way while the Aussies had their way with them to reach 327. They then pulled it together two days later to bowl Zimbabwe out for 170 and defend a paltry 231 the batsmen managed to scrape together after a middle-order collapse.

As the All Blacks’ record shows (they’re unbeaten for 19 games and counting, and undefeated at home since 2009), it’s only through consistency that any team or individual can reach the pinnacle and stay there.

Even though it was immensely satisfying defeating Australia in the week, that alone will neither guarantee three-way glory in this series nor a banging summer ahead.

Longbottom is an armchair cricket critic. He’s been trolling since, like, before it was cool

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