Triple number one: tasty morsel ahead of Twenty/20 showpiece

2012-08-31 00:00

ENGLAND’S veneer of invincibility at home has been shown up to be nothing more than a thin coat of varnish on a waterlogged piece of wood.

What has to be stated is the strength of South Africa’s side, but can they convert the momentum into an International Cricket Council (ICC) trophy?

Whichever way you look at it, there is no mucking around about holding all three number-one berths in cricket. Even though Twenty/20 cricket started to flourish in the death throes of the Australian cricketing empire, it is not difficult to think that they would have ascended to the top, considering how they could easily turn a Test match into a one-dayer with their game changers who slipstreamed very easily between the different formats.

What of South Africa’s ascent? It reads like a beautiful bedtime story for a little child who cannot weather a severe thunderstorm. The South African public will clamour for more and the Sri Lankan’s T20 showpiece has to be on the agenda.

Of all people, Gary Kirsten will know all about the pain of that “c” word, which has come to be associated with South African cricket. I feel it is a mental block that permeates from the South African junior side’s inability to win the U19 World Cup. They did very well to get to the last four as conditions were not the easiest in Queensland, but winning is like an intravenous drug. Once it’s in your bloodstream, it is an addiction. If that little obstacle can be seen off, I can only wonder how much confidence that would imbue in the senior side, for younger generations to leech off.

Besides the high of taking India to a World Cup, Kirsten will remember the pain of Karachi in 1996, when he trod on his stumps trying to fend off a Courtney Walsh bouncer. His wild sweep in the face of a Shane Warne onslaught, which saw his country tie what is one of the finest one-day games in history, will always bite. So will the southwesterly deluge that flooded Kingsmead and washed away South Africa’s dream of a home World Cup.

Sandwiched in-between that is the watching from the bench as Bob Woolmer and Hansie Cronje innovated their way to the 1998 ICC Champions Trophy on the back of superb all-round performances by Jacques Kallis.

Kallis could also be a lynchpin for the September tourney. No longer shouldering the bulk of the run-scoring weight, he has unshackled himself and the results have been seen in the Indian Premier League. For so long, the serially rich underperformers, the Kolkata Knight Riders, piggybacked on his consistency to realise their potential.

David Miller’s pyrotechnics in the Friends for Life T20 final, where he pulled Yorkshire from the fire with a six-studded unbeaten 72 had the English media all agog about him not being in Kirsten’s Sri Lankan touring party. Miller can hit a ball a very long way and he is a very special talent, but his introduction after the West Indian debacle was nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to growing public pressure for the blooding of youth and an injection of pace because of the slow scoring that hamstrung South Africa in that tournament. Miller will be part of South Africa’s cricket future in all forms of the game at some stage, but for now, he should be left to feast on first-class bowling pickings.

Whether England fight back with their patchwork ODI side, which was bound to be exposed, is another matter for Kirsten to deal with. Being number one with no proper silverware is in line with the All Black matter before they removed their 24-year-old monkey. With Bafana Bafana bumbling and the Springboks having still to find their feet under Heyneke Meyer, the Proteas’ midwinter bloom has been nourishing. All that is needed is food for the soul —an ICC trophy in any sort of guise.

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