Missing half-chances was the key factor in the Proteas’ agonising loss to New Zealand in the semi-final, says Graeme Smith.
In his column on the ICC official website, Smith recalled Steve Waugh’s assessment of the 1999 World Cup campaign, when Australia had to win every match to make it to the semi’s.
‘Steve Waugh spoke about the importance of taking every half chance that presented itself. In a tight game with so much at stake neither team is going to put in a flawless performance but the Proteas missed the half chances that counted and it ultimately cost them,’ Smith wrote.
He acknowledges though, that the rain had disrupted the Proteas’s flow.
‘It definitely halted the momentum of the innings which played into the hands of the Black Caps by allowing them to regroup. They would have backed themselves to score at a minimum of 10 to the over for the final 12 overs if given the chance and would have believed a score in the region of 340 was well within their grasp.
‘Even though New Zealand had to score at almost seven to the over they would have felt more comfortable having to maintain this rate across 43 overs as opposed to 50 overs. This in turn meant that the start McCullum gave the hosts was much harder to pull back due to the reduced nature of the innings.’
Nevertheless, he added, Faf du Plessis and Rilee Rossouw showed great composure in rebuilding the innings. ‘The Proteas would have been content with getting to 281 in 43 overs and would have backed themselves to defend 298 in the same amount of overs.’
The rain also affected the ball, by making it a lot softer when the Proteas bowled, and he said it was clear the bowlers were battling with this.
But most importantly, he added: ‘They seemed to deviate from their pre-planned bowling strategy to McCullum by bowling poor lengths which allowed him to dictate the pace of the game. This in turn allowed the middle-order to play themselves in as opposed to having to chase the game from the outset.’
He concluded: ‘We could further scrutinise the selection of Philander ahead of Abbott, the two missed run-outs and the miscommunication between Berhardien and Duminy but ultimately New Zealand were the better team on the day.
‘I experienced three losses in World Cup knockout games and I know that the hurt will be present for some time, but the team will bounce back.’