South Africa have been embarrassed in the final group match of the inaugural Twenty20 championships. Eric Simons might have an ironic smile on his face as this defeat brings back memories of the heartbreaking 2003 exit.
After the 2003 debacle, Shaun Pollock resigned as captain and Pat Symcox stood down as a selector. In this instance the stakes aren’t as high as this format of the game doesn’t hold as much weight in the eyes of cricketers and the fans in comparison to the other formats.
South Africa have only themselves to blame. At the interval there is no doubt in my mind that the coach and captain would have been aware of the minimum required to get to the semi-final. The all important figure was 126 off 120 balls, by no means a tough ask, yet if you watched the match you would have thought differently.
South Africa started off badly with the three specialist batsmen in the squad sent packing with twelve runs on the board. This brought the all rounders to rescue the game and at this stage it should be stressed that 126 would have been the victory target although it didn’t seem the case.
Boucher and Morkel rescued the side from a disgusting 31/5 to take them closer to qualifying before Boucher was dismissed. This left SA needing 26 runs off 20 balls and 4 wickets in hand to qualify. Whilst this isn’t the easiest task it certainly was obtainable yet they managed 16 runs, 4 of which were to Ntini the only batsman to score faster than a run a ball.
It was a pathetic display from the Proteas, who now are firmly in the driving seat as a nation of chokers in the important games. There is nothing more to say about this the guys weren’t good enough and it certainly isn’t in the talent department, SA have some of the most talented players in the world. The mindset is all wrong, and this needs to be addressed quickly. There is a saying that the rot starts from the top, is this true about SA cricket??
The last day of the group stages features two key matches out of the three on offer. The first match of the day at 10 am (8:00am GMT) is the decider between Australia and Sri-Lanka, the winner will join Pakistan in the semi-finals. It is hard to call a winner in this game, as Australia are without a doubt the best side in the world in the longer versions of the game, however they have struggled to adjust to the shortest version, twenty20.
There is no doubt they have the players that can impact on this game, however they haven’t seemed to adjust to this format quickly enough. I think Sri-Lanka will win it in a tightly contested game. The key man for Australia will be Symonds, a brutal innings from him could change the game.
Pakistan vs Bangladesh: There is nothing to lose for Bangladesh who started off by thrashing the West Indians, and struggling from there. They have some classy players, but are no match for the powerful Pakistanis.
South Africa vs India: The final match could cause some calculator work to be used if India beat SA. South Africa will qualify as the number one side even if they lose to India provided it is nail bitingly close. However if South Africa get trounced by India, they could find the net run rate counting against them and fail to qualify. It is an unlikely situation, especially as India just need a win to qualify regardless of by how much it is.
I have worked out that if India score 210 and SA fail to make 195 they will be knocked out. At the moment they have the best NRR however the matches are so close it is easy for them to relinquish this position.
I predict South Africa to win this game but it will be their toughest game of the tournament so far as there is added pressure on them. The conditions will be very interesting and more than likely favouring the side batting first. This toss is a vital one to win.
On Saturday the twenty20 finals day were held. In the first semi-final Lancashire batted first against Gloucestershire and made 148 in their 20. In this form of cricket that is hardly ever good enough and Gloucestershire ambled home in just under 17 overs with Craig Spearman earning himself the man of the match award for smashing 86 in 55 balls. This innings included 5 sixes and 8 fours.
The second semi-final contest was slightly closer as Kent made hard work chasing down 141 set by Sussex. Murray Goodwin made the top score of 38 off 35 helping Sussex post 140. Ryan Mclaren managed to pick up 1-10 in 2 overs. On the batting side both Martin van Jaarsveld and Mclaren failed with each scoring 2 runs. However Kent were through to the final and there was still time for a South African to shine.
Kent decided to field first and chase down the Gloucestershire total, which would have been massive until the dreaded nelson came up. At 111-4 it seemed like the was little hope for Kent, but the curse struck and with it Ryan Mclaren removed the danger man Hamish Marshall for 65 off 49 balls. Not satisfied with sending the danger man to have a shower, he clean bowled their keeper the next ball, then trapped Fisher in front for the cherry on top and a HAT TRICK. This helped break the momentum Gloucestershire had and restricted them to 146.
Kent didn’t want the crowd to be bored by the game and managed to just scrape home with 3 balls left, after some controversy about the captain, Key’s dismissal. For obvious reasons Ryan Mclaren was made man of the match.
In every game, the side batting second won, and all the totals were under 150. It seems a game where it is much easier to chase than to set!!!