Why the Proteas failed

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Proteas_AB AP The Proteas had to make do without Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. And JP Duminy's lack of match practice made matters even more difficult. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth

London – South Africa’s Champions Trophy campaign was brought to a halt at The Oval by a rampant English bowling unit on Wednesday. The immediate reaction, even from Gary Kirsten is that the Proteas “choked” again in the semi-final. We, though, take a broader look at the reasons behind the team’s failure and also find a few rays of light trying to push through “the dark mist”.

NEGATIVES

Bowling unit lacked the X-factor

South Africa could not afford to have their two most experienced fast bowlers Morné Morkel and Dale Steyn deliver just 12.5 overs in the entire Champions Trophy if they were to stand a realistic chance of claiming their first major limited-overs silverware since 1998. Injuries, though, are a part of the game and it was an opportunity for the reserve bowlers to grab their chance. They could not do that consistently with South Africa’s bowling unit severely lacking the X-factor at this tournament.

Waste of time

South Africa’s call-up of Test opener Alviro Petersen when Smith was ruled out seemed to be the sensible option. Petersen was in good form for his English county Somerset and knew the conditions well. But then to not select the 33-year-old for the opening game against India, and subsequently throughout the series, was baffling as the team management preferred to push Colin Ingram up the order. Ingram did well against the West Indies in Cardiff, but remains far too inconsistent. Petersen would have been better off had he remained at Taunton, where at least he would have played regularly.

Gamble

Was JP Duminy ready to be pushed into such a high-profile tournament without having played any cricket for the past six months? It is an interesting question because the little left-hander returned with a career-best 150 not out against the Netherlands in his comeback game prior to the Champions Trophy. A hit-about at a cosy club ground in idyllic conditions in Amstelveen against a second-tier team cannot, however, compare to intense battle against the top eight nations of the world. But Duminy’s talent or ability is not being questioned here – though it will serve the Proteas better in the long term at No 3 – but he was a few notches behind the pace of the game in England.

AND NOW FOR THE POSITIVES...

Lion-heart

After years of spending time on the sidelines just travelling with the national team, Robin Peterson is certainly enjoying the fact that he is now being afforded regular opportunities in the twilight of his international career. While other South African players regularly have their reputations tarnished at major events, Peterson actually thrives when the pressure is at its most intense. In every one of the last three ICC tournaments (World Cup 2011, World T20 2012 and Champions Trophy 2013) the Proteas have competed in, he has been one of their standout performers.

‘See in the V, hit it in the tree’

It was not quite that spectacular for young David Miller, but the left-hander carried his good Indian Premier League form into the Champions Trophy. South Africa have wanted Miller to push on to the highest level since identifying him just out of his teens three years ago, and it appears that he has now settled into a groove. His half-century, under extreme pressure, at The Oval is testament to how far the KwaZulu-Natalian has progressed as an overall cricketer, not only as a batsman, but too.

Larger than life

Chris Morris arrived, did not quite conquer, but certainly impressed in the brief time he was here with the Proteas. There are few frills to Morris’s game, other than wholehearted courage every time he puts on the green shirt of South Africa. He bowled with lots of pace, and was an energetic presence in the field. A promising limited-overs career awaits the 26-year-old from the Highveld. – The Star



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