South Africa handed out a thrashing to Scotland on Sunday that was as professional as it was destructive. The balance in this South African squad is the best it’s ever been and there showing in the warm up games, and in the real thing yesterday, suggests that they are in with a real chance at ending their World Cup drought.
Some doubters may sneer and point out that it was just Scotland that were beaten yesterday and not one of the bigger teams, but remember that on the opening day England took and, and lost too, just Holland. The shorter the form of the game the better the chances are for the smaller teams to cause an upset. The intensity and professionalism has to be there for the bigger teams if they are to carry momentum forward in the tournament and lay down a marker to those watching. South Africa did just that.
There isn’t a weakness in this South African outfit. The biggest problem they had before the T20 World Cup was where to bat Kallis. That’s more of a luxury than a problem. They’ve opted to open with the all rounder and he’s shown that there is a place for orthodox batting up front, and it doesn’t have to slow down the run rate. The over he savaged by Stander yesterday was pure class and orthodox placement.
The batting line up covers all bases. There are players that can carry an innings, players that can smash the ball out of the park, players that can rebuild if needed and players that can finish. Importantly these roles can be filled by most of the batsman, as AB de Villiers showed yesterday. De Villiers innings of 79 not out from just 34 balls was a master class in T20 batting. He didn’t come out hitting from ball one but played himself in and then let lose with destructive hitting full of style and solid thinking. De Villiers is the form batsman in world cricket right now and has aspirations of being the best batsman in the world. He’s on his way to achieving just that.
The bowling attack is something new to South African cricket fans. For so long South Africa have been accused of having a solid, but one dimensional attack. All right arm fast with little variation. There is no such accusations this time. The opening pair of Steyn and Parnell are a right arm left arm combination that includes pace and swing. They are supported by Kallis and Albie Morkel. If the pitch offers more bounce then Morne Morkel is waiting in the wings. The trump card for South Africa, and this has not been said before in South Africa’s 19 years back in international cricket, are the spin twins of Botha and van der Merwe. Firstly against Australia and now in England they are showing how effective they are in the middle of an innings, both strangling the run rate, and picking up wickets. South Africa’s strength is spin. That’s a sentence most would never have thought they’d see.
The batting and bowling are balanced perfectly and are supported by outstanding fielding. This is probably the most athletic cricket team ever on show. AB de Villiers and Gibbs may be battling it out for the title of world best fielder, but not too far behind are Duminy, van der Merwe, and even on the South African bench Robin Peterson and Justin Ontong are class acts in the field.
The balance in this team is perfect. The brand of cricket they are playing is perfect. The only thing counting against this team is history and their own nerves. It’s about time South Africa jumped off the back of world cup failure and rewrote history. This T20 World Cup in England is a great place to start.
pic from cricinfo.com