SA will beat Afghans, won’t they?

2010-05-05 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Repeat after me: South Africa will beat Afghanistan today. Now say it one more time, just for reassurance.

That’s going to happen this evening at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, isn’t it?

Er … yes, of course it is, with the Proteas thus nailing down their passage into the next phase of the ICC World Twenty20.

Mind you, beating the Netherlands — home of cheese, liquorice, dykes, clogs and wondrous, early 1970s total football — was probably something England supporters just as richly anticipated going into day one of the tournament that took place less than a year ago, and at Lord’s, the symbolic home of cricket.

Only, the Dutch didn’t believe in scripts, cheekily and outrageously pipping the host nation by four wickets off the last ball, their 163 for six eclipsing the 162 for five posted by Paul Collingwood’s outfit.

The Netherlands were participants just a few weeks ago when a World T20 qualifying tournament was held in Dubai.

They didn’t win it; Afghanistan did, beating Ireland in the final.

And the Irish, as we know, aren’t exactly averse themselves to the odd giant-killing in the limited-overs arena; it was they who sent Pakistan home humiliated in the last Caribbean-staged major tournament, the fuller World Cup of 2007.

So Graeme Smith and company, who must win in Barbados to escape probably their most ignominious fate of all time, will be acutely aware of the potential perils of this brand of the game.

If Ireland could beat Pakistan in the 50-overs format, then anything is possible — even if still decidedly not “probable” — in the super-abbrevia­ted version.

Here’s a slightly worrying thought: what if the 30% chance of “scattered showers” predicted for Bridgetown today turns into precipitation a little more niggly and persistent?

What if the game is condensed further to an eight-overs-a-side lotto, or something similar?

Well, that is in the hands of the gods. The Proteas, unsatisfactory in several areas in losing to India at Gros Islet, must simply keep their eyes on the proverbial ball and expect to crush the Afghans.

Their opponents are way more wet behind the ears, after all, even than the Dutch were in that tremulous Lord’s achievement. That day, South African-born Essex all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate was in their ranks, as was Dirk Nannes, that quirky, cosmopolitan left-arm speedster, who now plays for Australia and participated in their comfortable disposal of Pakistan on Sunday.

It is probably pointless the South Africans spending much time examining the credentials of the Afghans. There won’t be much in the way of pertinent, apples-versus-apples information out there. (Too much research might only unnecessarily spook them anyway.)

Suffice to say that when Afghanistan took the Dubai qualifiers by relative storm, the Wisden Cricketer (UK) enthusiastically trumpeted them thus: “They play cricket for the joy of it. They all bat, they all bowl and they are all exhibitionists. They are dashing and daring.”

I saw some passages of their top-flight debut defeat to India at this event, and for all their naivety — they weren’t too clever against the short ball, even in benign modern West Indies conditions — I rather liked their body language.

They didn’t look glaringly out of place, it must be said, and their fielding was better, based on the snatches I watched, than some comic efforts I’ve seen in recent months from the likes of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

So for good measure, let’s hear it once more: South Africa will beat Afghanistan.

In the immortal, though once famously ill-timed words of David “Bumble” Lloyd, they ought to even “flippin’ murder ‘em”.

Won’t they?

Playing today:

Australia v Bangladesh, Bridgetown, 3.30 pm

Afghanistan, v, South Africa, Bridgetown, 7.30 pm


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