T20 is constantly evolving while SA teams still make us reach for a pillow

The Lions’ Temba Bavuma with Rassie van der Dussen walk off after their win against the Knights. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The Lions’ Temba Bavuma with Rassie van der Dussen walk off after their win against the Knights. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Feb 25, 2021


By Stuart Hess

JOHANNESBURG - It may have no impact on the outcome of the competition. The Highveld Lions may yet win the T20 Challenge, but there was something disheartening about their unambitious pursuit of a “nothing” target set by the Knights at Kingsmead on Tuesday.

The rules provide for bonus points and in the case of the team batting second, if the target is achieved within 16 overs, that team gets an extra log point.

The Lions were chasing 107 against the Knights - by no means a stressful chase (even the required run-rate in 16 overs was only 6.6) and the pitch wasn’t of the kind to worry batsmen, at any level, particularly those who have played the game at the highest level. And yet the Lions did not even show a modicum of ambition in that chase.

It was a microcosm of the mentality of South African cricket (especially the batting), an indication that the game in this country remains conservative in its outlook, where words like “smart, aggressive, show intent,” used by Proteas head coach, Mark Boucher, are just things to say, but not do.

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England came to SA earlier this summer, and obliterated the Proteas in a three-match T20 series, illustrating the gap between the teams was enormous. The IPL showed how teams had enhanced batting just in the last two years how 50 runs in the last five overs was almost the norm.

In SA we’re stuck, maybe two to three years behind the kind of thinking and therefore the means to implement what the rest of the cricket world is going with at the moment.

The T20 Challenge in Durban was really an opportunity to showcase how, if at all, SA was trying to follow the example shown by England and in the IPL, and it’s just not happening, especially from the perspective of batting.

Batsmen think because they are trying to reverse sweep or ramp, they’re being innovative. The conservative thinking trickles down to what teams batting first reckon is a good enough total on the pitch.

“Ooh it turned, ooh it seamed, the ball got stuck in the wicket,” everyone goes. Sure, those are all things that challenge batsmen, but nothing at Kingsmead this last week has suggested that 181 - made by the Cape Cobras against the Warriors on Tuesday - should be the highest total in the tournament. When you are happy with 150, you are not taking the game forward that’s just par.

Players and coaches don’t think big, and because they don’t think big, they don’t DO big.

And so you get a target of 107, the chance for a bonus point, but more importantly from a broader SA cricket playing perspective, the chance to display ambition, the chance to attack, play in a manner attractive to an audience, and what do the Lions do?

Their team packed with Proteas, they make sure of the win, with SEVEN wickets in hand. Lame. Pass us a pillow.


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