Depressingly familiar defeat kicks off ICC

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Proteas’ Tabraiz Shamsi dives to make his ground during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match against Australia at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Photo: File
Proteas’ Tabraiz Shamsi dives to make his ground during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match against Australia at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Photo: File

SPORT


The Proteas may have been heroic in nearly recording the lowest defended total in a T20 World Cup in a typically tense encounter against their old enemy, Australia, but they did little to persuade their apathetic compatriots that this was the International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament win they had been waiting for.

Temba Bavuma’s men had shown a lot of character and resistance by the time Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis scored the winning runs in the World Cup opener, which condemned the Proteas to a five-wicket defeat with two balls remaining.

South Africa’s paltry total of 118/9 off 20 overs made it clear that they would begin their campaign with a loss.

Thanks to the low and slow wickets in the United Arab Emirates, this has been billed as a T20 World Cup that would be decided by low scores. But there is low (in the region of 140) and there is the capitulation that masqueraded as a batting effort by the Proteas.

The reaction from the long-suffering bowlers – backed up by alert and tireless fielding in the searing heat at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi – was typically no-nonsense, with Australia restricted to a power play score of 28 for the loss of openers Aaron Finch and David Warner.

READ: Beware of Proteas in stealth mode

Aiden Markram’s contender for catch of the tournament, when he ran 15m and took a diving catch off Anrich Nortje at long on to dismiss Steve Smith in the 15th over, as well as spinner Tabraiz Shamsi’s cleanup of the dangerous Glenn Maxwell in very next over, signalled hope for the South Africans.

However, a nervy 41-run partnership between Stoinis and Matthew Wade put paid to that idea.

Given that their group already had defending champion West Indies and the powerful England side, the addition of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from the qualifiers for the main group stage has just ratcheted up the pressure of the comeback, which begins against the Windies on Tuesday.

“The inclusion of two subcontinent teams, in subcontinental conditions, does make the group a lot tougher,” admitted Bavuma after the match.

We know that, in every game, we’re going to have to come up with our best cricket
Temba Bavuma

“But the group was never an easy one, so we know that, in every game, we’re going to have to come up with our best cricket.”

Having been put in to bat by the Aussies, the Proteas got off to an unusually bright and breezy start, led by the unlikely figure of Bavuma, who milked Mitchell Starc for 11 runs in a first over that included two gloriously driven fours.

However, things rapidly went awry and verged on comical in the second over, with Bavuma caught in his crease to be castled by one that kept low from part-time spinner Maxwell.

Josh Hazlewood, fresh from winning the Indian Premier League with the Chennai Super Kings last week in these conditions, not only dramatically tidied things up, but also got wickets en route to impressive figures of 2/19 off his four overs (15 dot balls).

The player of the match had Rassie van der Dussen caught behind first ball and induced a subdued Quinton de Kock to play on in the most bizarre fashion – he attempted a paddle to fine leg, only to have the ball strike his thigh pad, leaving him looking on in horror as it looped on to his stumps in slow motion.

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In a game in which the Proteas would only score two sixes in their innings and only 29/3 in their power play, Markram (40 off 36) was the only batsman to mount something of a resistance, with fast bowler Kagiso Rabada’s 19 not out off 23 the next-highest scorer. Incidentally, they hit the two sixes.

The tentative Proteas simply never got going and lost wickets at crucial moments. For the umpteenth time, this forced them to rely on their bowlers to do the job for them – but, alas, the hole they had dug for themselves was too deep to get out of. 


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