Australia beat South Africa by 84 runs in the first really big clash of the World Cup. Does this mean that Australia are on their way to a 3rd successive title and the rest have no real chance? Are they just making up the numbers in a tournament that will end up being a procession as the Australian Juggernaut marches relentlessly on to another major title? This is what the feint hearted would have taken from last nights match. The brave should read on. Throughout the week South Africa have been playing down the importance of this match, saying that although the winner would take something out of it, it by no means defines the destination of the trophy. Indeed South Africa would be hoping that this defeat kick starts their world cup and that this loss is learned from – and there was a lot that could be learned from in terms of South Africa moving forward and also how to beat Australia. Firstly to South Africa. When bowling they allowed Hayden and Gilchrist to bully them and then allowed Ponting and Clarke to build and then launch the attack that made the huge score of 377/6. South Africa’s bowling attack has been built around the economy of Pollock and the striking of Ntini. When this failed they had no plan B. Their front line bowlers were allowed to carry on for 5 overs each even though they were being torn appart. It was perhaps thought that Pollock would tidy things up eventually and so was allowed to bowl on, and that Ntini would get one of them out sooner than later. This did not happen. In the end Pollock ended up with his worst bowling figures ever, going for 83 in his 10 and remaining wicketless. The only bowler to do relatively well was Hall who picked up 2/60 and bowled an immaculate last over. Between the 20th and 30th overs, the overs preceding the power plays, South Africa had their best bowling spell, only going for 55 runs, but only picking up a single wicket. The strength of South Africa’s bowling is there seam attack, but the lack of a spinner could be their undoing on days like this. Australia were able to face the same type of bowler over after over and until Hall began to reverse swing it at the end they had no trouble. By then it was to late for South Africa. Smith appears to have little confidence in a spinner on grounds with such short boundries. His fear is that the spinner would just be hit out of the ground. But as Brad Hogg showed during the South African innings, a spinner doesn’t have to be Warne or Murli to do well, but just has to offer variation, a difference to the attack. South Africa will have 6 more games during the Super 8’s to try and get their combinations right. Either Smith has to bowl himself a little more, or perhaps ask AB de Villiers to turn his arm for a few overs, or he has to pick a spinner. Peterson would come in perhaps at the expense of Langefeld, with Kemp bowling a few overs in the middle and Kallis doing duty with Hall at the end. The point is that the attack is to similar. In conditions where seam is overwhelmingly favoured they could go in with an all pace attack. Otherwise variation is the key. And confidence. But over confidence is not. South Africa felt that whatever score was posted they would be able to chase it down, relying on the good form of their batsmen, their long batting line up, and the small boundries and flat pitch. This perhaps is why Australia were able to bully the South African bowlers for so long, with the thinking being that the score was going to be big anyway, but we’ll get there. This meant that a score of 350 became 377. When South Africa came out to bat they did everything right up front. Smith and de Villiers took the attack to Australia and didn’t give them a chance. When McGrath came on to bowl de Villiers hit his first three balls for four. They got on top of the bowling and didnt let up. And then Ponting did something different. He delayed the final power play and brought in Hogg and Symonds. Symonds was targeted by de Villiers and only lasted 2 overs. Hogg though was effective. He offered something different and slowed the run rate down slightly. After 20 overs South Africa were well in control. Then a silly second run by de Villiers and a superb throw by Watson on the boundry brought to an end a super little innings from de Villiers of 92 off 70 balls. At this stage South Africa were still favourites. Then it all went wrong. Smith left the field with cramps, Gibbs left his crease and was stumped off Hogg, Prince fell for a trap off McGrath and South Africa continued to lose wickets. All the time Kallis was watching at the other end batting to slowly under the circumstances. With the rate climbing there was never any attempt by Kallis to bring it down, perhaps hoping that Boucher, Kemp and Pollock would take care of that while he batted around them. The situation called for attack from both sides and the pressure of coming in with 11, 12 and then 15 runs an over needed was to much for the strong, big hitting middle order. Smith and de Villiers assessed the situation right. The rest did not. And this is what the other teams can learn from this South African defeat. The Australians can be get at, they can be rustled, but once you have them in that position don’t let go. That’s what South Africa did in the 438 match, this time however once the top two went they let go of their hold. Hopefully this prove to be a lesson well learned by the rest of the teams and South Africa will come out stronger and better prepared, and Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the West Indies will have identified the weaknesses in Australia. The World Cup is still wide open. Australia don’t have it won yet.
Aussies Power On