TELFORD VICE, Auckland
CRICKET teams don’t like surprises. So SA’s remaining opponents in the World Cup would have been none too pleased with what they saw at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
JP Duminy is better than a part-time off-spinner but he is not a frontline bowler. For him to rip the heart out of Sri Lanka’s innings by taking a hat-trick – and a proper hat-trick: slip catch, caught behind, leg-before – would have made batsmen take notice.
Similarly, bowlers would have been stopped in their tracks by Quinton de Kock’s 78 not out off 57 balls, in which he looked nothing like the poor kid who had struggled to scrape together 53 runs off the first 101 deliveries he faced in the tournament.
“Where did that come from,” batsmen and bowlers alike among SA’s fellow quarter-finalists would have asked, no doubt lacing their question with kneejerk expletives.
In fact, Duminy’s hat-trick, which he took with the last ball of his eighth over and the first two deliveries of his ninth, snuck up on the bowler himself.
“I actually realised it just before I bowled that second ball in that (ninth) over,” Duminy said on SA’s social media channel. “And then I told AB (de Villiers), ‘Hey, it’s the hattrick ball.’
“And then we got a few extra catchers in and I bowled the perfect ball: top of off, hit the pads …”
Dazzled as Duminy was, deservedly, by his own achievement, he had praise to spare for De Kock.
“You always want to contribute to the team, and in a big way. He stood up. I know there was a lot of criticism against him and a lot of people questioning him, and to (perform) with your bat and in the field is the best way possible (to answer detractors).”
That De Kock did, claiming two fine catches – for good measure one each off a seamer, Kyle Abbott, and a spinner, Duminy – before guiding SA to their nine-wicket win.
Suddenly, what had seemed a struggle for him for six matches was simple. Or so it seemed.
“We knew it was going to be hard, so we had to knuckle down,” De Kock said. “We were only chasing 134 and it looked like I was playing easily but, trust me, nothing was easy.
“I’m just glad I finally contributed to this World Cup and to the team. It’s great to be in the semis now. Hopefully we can get through that and then hopefully bring the Cup back home.”
Having been disappointed by their team in six previous World Cups, South Africans are no doubt hesitant to ask what their chances were this time.
“I don’t think the question is can they (win),” Mike Horn, the explorer-cum-motivator-cum-dressingroom guru told SABC television news. “I think it’s when will they win a World Cup.
“I think this team has the individuals and they’ve done the hard yards. They’ve prepared themselves very well and now it’s going to be the roll of the dice.
“If there is ever a (SA) team that can win the World Cup it’s this team. I’ll back them all the way.”
A World Cup win? Now there’s a surprise South Africans would like.