Death bowling implosion trumps Reeza heroics as Proteas surrender T20 series to Windies

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Reeza Hendricks. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)
Reeza Hendricks. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

At the Wanderers

Two days after reminding the world that nothing is impossible when chasing a target in the T20 format, the Proteas themselves were reminded that doing so on consecutive occasions doesn't happen so easily.

While this series was meaningless in the greater scheme of things from the outset - there is, after all, automatic qualification for the 50-over World Cup on the line this weekend against the Netherlands - South Africa will be disappointed that they allowed the West Indies to walk away with a 2-1 triumph, confirmed when the visitors won Tuesday night's decider here by seven runs.

Despite another run-fest suggesting that life was tough for the bowlers again, this surface was actually far more competitive than SuperSport Park, and, with some prudent judgement, the batters could be reined in.

By the end of the 18th over of the Windies' batting effort, the hosts looked set to pursue a comfortable target, especially in light of their opponents already being eight down.

Things are never that simple, however, when it comes to the men from the Caribbean, who invariably bat all the way down in their T20 line-ups.

To rest on one's laurels at the death is never a good idea, and as things panned out, the Proteas lost their grip on this game because they bled an almighty 43 runs in the last two overs.

Ironically, South Africa's best bowler on the night, Kagiso Rabada, was the biggest culprit in a frenetic 14-minute period.

He had delivered a double-strike in his opening over that went a long way towards the islanders’  batting effort progressing at a more mundane pace than in Centurion.

From the outset the Proteas’ pace spearhead focused on being full and fast, which led to Kyle Mayers being castled trying to pull.

He then clearly deceived Johnson Charles, the man who smashed a 46-ball 118 at SuperSport Park on Sunday, who misread his length.

It was a pity then that, after boasting decent figures of 2/24 in his first three overs, Rabada seemed to lose focus when Heinrich Klaasen dropped a skied pull off the first delivery of his final over and ended up conceding 26.

That was wholly down to Joburg Super Kings all-rounder Romario Shepherd, who was outstanding in his 22-ball 44, one of his sixes in the over being a gun lofted straight drive off a full length and the 24-year-old deservedly held his pose for a few seconds.

In fact, his partnership of 59 for the ninth wicket with Alzarri Joseph was an indictment of South Africa’s night with the ball.

There were moments of brilliance and redemption – notably from Lungi Ngidi (2/45) after he was carted for 22 in his opening over and typically skilful pace bowling from a returning Anrich Nortje (2/36) – but those were interspersed far too regularly by little to no thought on some of their tactics. 

There was a propensity to bowl far too short, allowing the Windies to also shrewdly exploit the shortened Eastern Stand boundary, which was only 57m long.

Still, even though Nicolas Pooran also showed his renowned T20 pedigree with an entertaining 41 off 19, the Proteas had seemed in control before the wheels, axle and gearbox fell off at the death.

In contrast, the Windies immediately applied superior grey matter with the ball.

They kept Quinton de Kock caged with a packed off-side field and were helped by the left-hander struggling to find his timing, ostensibly because he was simply trying to hit the ball too hard.

Yet Reeza Hendricks continued his excellent form with a career-best 83 off 44 deliveries that featured most of his best qualities though he was dropped by Brandon King on the square boundary when he had 50.

He received some of the support he deserved from Rilee Rossouw, whose 21-ball 42 featured a six that the top tier of the nearby block of flats, but the left-handed stroke-maker charged a slower ball bouncer from Jason Holder and gloved his pull in a dismissal that knocked the stuffing out of South Africa's chase.

Alzarri Joseph, illustrating the skill and pace that has seen his pedigree rise further on this tour, was at the forefront of steadily dismantling the middle order, claiming a career-best 5/40.

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