South Africa’s bowlers lost their composure when Brendon McCullum was on the rampage in the World Cup semi-final, said SuperSport commentator Kepler Wessels.
While insisting that this four-wicket defeat could in no way be put down to choking, he said that the Proteas will acknowledge that their performance in the field was not as sharp and precise as it could have been.
‘They can leave this tournament with their heads held high, particularly after the way they played in the quarter-final and the way they scrapped in this match… the way they fought all the way and toughed it out showed them to be a great team.’ he said.
‘Nerves got to both sides… New Zealand also dropped four or five catches. We have to be realistic when we appraise what happened. New Zealand have gone through this tournament unbeaten, while we lost games against three of the better teams. You can’t accuse them of choking in one game, and in such a big moment.’
Wessels, a former Proteas captain, added: ‘It was a game of two halves: excellent with the bat, but unlucky with the raining coming when it did. Without that they would certainly have offered them a much higher target. But in the second innings, a couple of chances went begging, and they were not at their best.
‘And we needed composure when bowling to McCullum, and we missed that.’
His was an irresponsible dismissal, added Wessels. ‘He had the South Africa attack at his mercy. He had done the damage. They were 70 after five overs. Had he batted for another seven or 10 overs, it would have been a far easier equation. New Zealand would have been frustrated about that; maybe he wouldn’t have been because that is the way he plays.
‘But credit to the New Zealanders. After his dismissal they could have panicked, but they stayed calm in the chase and kept on rebuilding and rebuilding.’
South Africa, though, were back in the match after the run-out of Martin Guptill and the dismissal of Ross Taylor.
‘That’s when they had a real problem, for New Zealand, but they played calmly and sensibly. And for Grant Elliott to come in and play an innings like that was exceptional.’
Too many of the South African bowlers were off the pace, particularly Dale Steyn said Wessels. ‘Steyn by his own admission during this tournament he has been below his best, and he was someone South Africa was looking to win this World Cup. But Vernon Philander had injuries and he was not at his best throughout this tournament.’