Champions Trophy in tatters for off-key Proteas

ICC Champions Trophy

BIRMINGHAM – Just like that, South Africa’s Champions Trophy ambitions are in tatters.

A month ago, they crowed as World No 1, with a clutch of players in the upper echelons of the world rankings.

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Proteas captain AB de Villiers slices his very first ball from spinner Imad Wasim to Mohammad Hafeez at backward point. Photo: ReutersPakistan’s Hasan Ali celebrates with team mates after bowling out South Africa’s Wayne Parnell. Photo: ReutersFaf du Plessis chopped the ball on to his stumps off Hasan Ali just as he was getting going. Photo: ReutersPakistan opener Fakhar Zaman hits out during his breezy innings of 31. Photo: ReutersMorné Morkel, seen here celebrating the dismissal of Fakhar Zaman, gave the Proteas hope. Photo: ReutersBabar Azam took the attack to the Proteas bowlers at Edgbaston. Photo: Reuters

But, as it has proved for so many years, those rankings are mere sugar-coating, because all resistance crumbles when it comes to tournament cricket.

The Proteas went down by 19 runs to Pakistan on the Duckworth/Lewis Method on Wednesday night due to a rain delay that kept the teams off the field, with Pakistan on 119/3 off 27 overs in reply to the 219/8 of their opponents.

Since arriving in England, the Proteas have been yet to play their best cricket. They have insisted that they were looking to peak at the right time, and aiming to prove people wrong come the Champions Trophy.

Well, here we are at that tournament and the whole thing is in tatters. The batting display offered up against a gallant, but inexperienced Pakistan attack was mind-numbing.

The shots smacked of the arrogance that AB de Villiers had dismissed Pakistan’s “part-time” bowlers with the day before at the press conference.

Cricket has a wicked sense of humour, and it was one of those so-called part-timers, Imad Wasim, who accounted for De Villiers first ball, a forgettable first for South Africa’s captain derelict.

It wasn’t just De Villiers, mind, but his shot made the least sense in the circumstances, in the tournament and in the very moment that he and the team have spoken so often about.

It was an horrific batting display, and Edgbaston (surely Pakistan’s home from home now) was a sea of green giddiness as Pakistan lifted themselves from the depths of their Indian demise, and hit the high notes against an off-key South Africa.

There were roars every time a green-coloured jumper touched a ball, and an explosion when they nipped out yet another South African player.

David Miller hits a six during his excellent knock of 75 not out against Pakistan. Photo: Reuters

The Proteas played in ‘away yellow’, due to a supposed clash of colours, and they were decidedly unfamiliar to the eye.

At 118/6 after 29 overs, there was a danger of being bowled out for less than 150 even as shots kept being played instead of the hatches being battened down. 

One man played with a semblance of responsibility in the top-order, though. He never got to three figures, but David Miller (75 not out off 104 balls) produced a stout effort that he can be proud of, a Test-match like shift that gave his bowlers a sniff.

But, to have a chance, they had to be miserly with the ball, dare not offer half-trackers and half-volleys.

Wayne Parnell, who had spoken of consistency being a key component of his game, produced a near identical spell to the carnage he suffered against Sri Lanka.

Pakistan thrashed at him, and carved more boundaries in the first five overs than South Africa had produced in 20.

With an eye on the weather, Pakistan tore into anything loose, though they had a stiff time keeping Morné Morkel out.

The lanky veteran bowled with grit, and ought to have bowled out his entire 10 there and then, such was his control and intensity.

Hasan Ali sends Wayne Parnell packing for a first-ball duck. Photo: Reuters

Five overs, 2/6 was his initial reward, but he wasn’t the same after. How could he be? The game had run away from South Africa, and the rain had arrived to make the task even simpler for Pakistan, who won by Duckworth/Lewis method.

The Proteas, No 1 in the world during the meaningless meander between tournaments, now face the very real prospect of not even seeing the semi-finals.

The part-timers of Pakistan rocked up in Birmingham, and left dancing in the rain, cheered on by 18 000 delirious fans.

How South Africa got into this mess is hard to fathom, yet completely in keeping with their nature in tournament cricket.

When it rains, it tends to pour.

IOL Sport

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