In the end it was a comfortable victory for the Proteas over Zimbabwe in their World Cup opener. Here GARY LEMKE reflects on significant aspects from the match.
1) SOUTH AFRICA DIDN’T PANIC
If you didn’t watch the match, or parts of it – which is the case with many affected by loadshedding – you could be forgiven that this was a walk in the park for the Proteas. A simple glance at the scoreboard would have you think it was all pretty routine for the tournament’s second favourites. Sent in to bat, rattle up 339 for 4 and the restrict Zimbabwe in their chase to 272 to win by 62 runs. Job done. Yes it was, but the cold stats can lie. South Africa were 83-4 in the 21st over with Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers all back in the hut. But David Miller and JP Duminy showed immense maturity and class as they rebuilt things with a world record 256-run fifth-wicket partnership. It could have all been so different had they not held their nerve. Had one got out, only Farhaan Behardien and the bowlers – Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel – remained. It could so easily have been 200 all out against Zimbabwe. But Miller and Duminy kept cool, both scored unbeaten hundreds and took the Proteas to a match-winning 339. And despite a fast start by Zimbabwe, getting to 191-2 with 18 overs and a batting powerplay to come, the outcome never felt in doubt.
2) ROLE OF BEHARDIEN REMAINS A PROBLEM
It was one of the main talking points going into the tournament: How would AB de Villiers manage the fifth bowler given the lack of a genuine allrounder to come in at No7 in the order. We rightly presumed the fifth bowler duties would be shared by JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien. As things turned out they bowled a combined 13 overs, with Duminy being asked to bowl eight, from which he took 1-45, suggesting he might even have to bowl a full 10 in future. Behardien, who didn’t bat, leaked 40 in his five overs. The big worry remains that a side equipped with better batsmen than Zimbabwe will plunder more runs from the fifth bowler and therefore place more pressure on the frontline four of Morkel, Philander, Steyn and Tahir. However, perhaps the time has come to put Behardien on the sidelines and introduce Wayne Parnell and then at least South Africa will be able to lift some pressure off the bowlers.
3) DAVID MILLER HAS FOUND HIS POSITION
It took 55 innings for the swashbuckling left-hander to score his first ODI hundred, but he now has two in his last three innings. He can also say he scored a hundred (an unbeaten 138) in his first World Cup innings. In his last seven innings, he has batted at No5 six times, scoring 45, 5, 70, 130no, 23 and 138no. He has now been given time in which to settle at the crease, get his eye in and manufacture an innings and then produce the fireworks inside the last 10 overs. Previously he was asked to come in and smash the ball around from ball one.
4) PROTEAS FIELDING NEEDS MORE WORK
They used to be the best fielding unit in the world. That is no longer the case. Yes, there are some greyhounds in the field and some real athletes, but as a whole they are not striking fear into the hearts of the opposition. The number of times they hit the stumps compared to the number of times they throw at the stumps is too low. There were again a couple of misfields that led to runs being conceded, while there are times when some players seem to be standing on the balls of their feet instead of their toes, which means they are slow to react to sharp chances. This might sound like nit-picking because the side has just won their opening World Cup match, but it’s the small things that matter when we get to the business end of the competition.
5) CAPTAINS TOOK WRONG OPTIONS
In three of the four matches so far the captain winning the toss has chosen to field and has sent the opposition in. And in all four matches the side batting first has scored big. No side batting first so far has scored under 300 and none of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or India were bowled out. And none of the sides batting second have managed to chase down the totals. The trend is clear: win the toss and bat first.