SACricketmag.com analyses South Africa’s disappointing loss to Pakistan by 29 runs in Auckland on Saturday.
1. Combination conundrum, again
South Africa’s choice to bowl first after winning the toss had as much to do with the probability of rain and condition of the pitch as it did with the need to practise chasing testing totals. The experimenting didn’t end there, as the early introduction of Imran Tahir after the 10th over, de Villiers the 11th and JP Duminy the 13th showed. The latter two ultimately shared the fifth and final 10-over allotment, proving rather expensive. The use of a host of part-timers against the West Indies worked well, but against substantially stronger opposition – like Pakistan – the combination isn’t necessarily going to prove economical or bring the desired breakthroughs.
2. We need to talk about Quinton
The bulk of the South African public, more interested in some extra Saturday sleep than patriotically pushing through the early hours, will have woken to news of Quinton de Kock’s duck. Immediate assumption will add fuel to the ‘drop de Kock’ bandwagon but, really, the young left-hander fell to an absolute cracker from Mohammad Irfan. Removed by the fast bowler’s height, additional carry and near perfect line, the batsman was almost justifiably undone. True, de Kock could have looked to play the delivery straighter, but all credit to the seamer. A big contribution against the United Arab Emirates next week won’t mean much to the collective, but plenty to the individual. Another cheap dismissal, however, will almost certainly see the youngster pushed down the order and Rilee Rossouw promoted. But, no, there remains no genuine reason to bench him – and give AB de Villiers the wicketkeeping duties.
3. Swinging when you’re winning
As tail-enders, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Rahat Ali were found entirely wanting in the face of relatively full, swinging pace. The Pakistan bowlers then tried to deploy the same gameplan against Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, but soon heeded a telling lesson – and corrected these short lengths to allow the ball more time to swing and seam. The results were prompt, with both right-handers undone outside the off-stump, briefly exposing a small vulnerability in arguably the best top order in ODI cricket today. Riaz, who earlier this month bowled the fastest delivery of the 2015 tournament, was particularly quick at Eden Park.
4. Batting breach
A lot of focus has been fixed on the lack of a proper, in-form seaming all-rounder in the South African squad. The majority of the debate has revolved around the under-resourced bowling attack, but this fixture severely exposed the need for additional batting firepower. Ironically, Saturday’s circumstance was an ideal platform for Farhaan Behardien to prove his worth, but he had to watch from the sidelines as the rest floundered. Dale Steyn is not an ODI number eight batsman, nor can Kyle Abbott be relied on for anything more than brief occupancy of the crease. Vernon Philander’s sound capability with the bat was again missed and, as difficult as it is to admit, Behardien – or Wayne Parnell – are required in this key bracket.
5. Polar opposites
‘Their unpredictability is not a challenge because they are predictably unpredictable. Their strength lies in the predictability of their unpredictability,’ said Russell Domingo earlier this week. Pakistan’s play, actually, was right on cue on Saturday. South Africa, on the contrary, countered expectation of their same, sound status quo – and have some major questions to answer before Thursday’s final group game against the UAE: how can Philander and Abbott fit into the same XI? Where to slot de Kock? And more. Saturday’s results, meanwhile, have hurt the West Indies considerably. They’ve fallen from third to fifth position in Pool B.