South Africa’s captain, Faf du Plessis, is not letting the emotions of last night’s thrilling two-run victory over New Zealand affect his team’s ultimate target of progressing to the knockout stages of this World T20.
After two hectic games, one resulting in a five-run defeat to Sri Lanka, the other an epic tussle with the Black Caps, the skipper was not about to let his guard down, striking a cautious tone and remaining focused solely on the next challenge despite it being against one of the lesser nations.
“(The) Netherlands (match) is certainly not going to be easy. The days of big nations thinking there will be easy T20 games are gone. The shorter the game, the more there is opportunity for one or two guys to take the game away. Because it’s a shortened game we need two or three guys on the day to do well. We will plan more for them and also practise,” Du Plessis said of Thursday’s clash.
It is hard to digest Du Plessis’s words as nothing else but respect for the game, as Sri Lanka showed the gulf between the full member countries and the associates last night when they overwhelmed the Dutch in the second match at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, dismissing them for a record low 39 before finishing the match before the end of the powerplay overs.
The Proteas, though, can’t afford a drop in intensity, especially after Dale Steyn breathed fresh life into the campaign last night with a spectacular spell of death bowling, leaving South Africa’s fate still in their own hands.
A second consecutive defeat would have meant Du Plessis’s men were dependent on other results in Group 1 for a chance at progression. It could easily have been so different, though, as New Zealand were odds-on favourites to condemn the Proteas to also-ran status at this tournament with two games remaining.
The Black Caps required 55 off 40 balls with eight wickets intact, then 29 runs off three overs, 21 off two overs and ultimately seven off Steyn’s final over to clinch this thrilling game.
Steyn’s skill, passion and hunger for success ensured the Black Caps fell two runs shy of their objective, but according to captain Du Plessis, such results are not achieved without a little bit of help from Mother Cricket.
“Every team that plays T20 cricket needs luck. You see the guys who win trophies, there is always something going for them. We were lucky that something went our way,” Du Plessis said.
However, as legendary South African golfer Gary Player’s now-famous quote says: “The harder you work, the luckier you get” – and that could not be more applicable here. Death bowling has long been an Achilles heel of South African limited-overs cricket, and it has not been resolved in its entirety, especially considering the woeful performance of Morné Morkel last night.
For every good ball Steyn delivered, Morkel sent down a load of rubbish that nearly cost South Africa the game as the beanpole fast bowler conceded 50 runs – including three successive Ross Taylor sixes – off his three overs.
Steyn, though, is in a different class, executing his game plans under pressure after hours and hours hitting the right areas consistently at training. It certainly paid dividends, with Steyn claiming a match-winning haul of 4/17.
JP Duminy had earlier left Steyn and Co with a manageable total to defend with an exhilarating knock of 86 not out off 43 balls (3 sixes and 10 fours) for a strike rate of 200 percent.
It was in contrast to Hashim Amla’s laboured innings of 41 from 40 balls, although in the context of the game, Du Plessis believes that was exactly what his team required after slipping to 42/3 shortly after the completion of the powerplay overs.
“I think today it wasn’t a bad thing. Like I said we lost too many wickets. So we needed batsman to stay with JP for a period of time.
“So for today he played a good innings with JP. Because JP was the one hitting the boundaries.” - The Star