TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHAT’S worse – losing the first match of a long tour or seeing the captain listed as “retired hurt” on the scorecard?
SA seemed to be between that rock and a hard place on Tuesday. They were beaten by eight wickets with two balls to spare by a Board XI in their Twenty20 tour match in Delhi and Faf du Plessis headed for the dressingroom having faced 27 balls for his 42, 28 of which he had clipped in boundaries.
Du Plessis has come on tour still in recovery from the knee injury that forced him out of SA’s one-day series against New Zealand last month. And the first T20 against India will be played in Dharamsala on Friday … Oh dear …
But we shouldn’t believe everything we read on scorecards. “It’s just a means to manage his knee post-injury,” Cricket SA tweeted when the inevitable questions came. “The physio doesn’t want him doing too much too soon.”
Phew. Not that that will make the visitors feel better about their performance on Tuesday. They set what looked like a daunting target by totalling 189/3. But the locals lashed lekker in their reply of 193/2.
SA’s troubles started early when Quinton de Kock was run out with the fourth ball of the match having faced three deliveries.
AB de Villiers and Du Plessis steadied matters with a stand of 87, and the captain’s retirement brought JP Duminy to the crease to score 68 not out at better than two runs a ball: hitting two fours and six sixes tends to boost the strike rate.
A measure of Duminy’s command was that Farhaan Behardien scored just 17 in an unbroken fourth-stand of 83, which flew off 7.4 overs.
But SA’s hopes were dashed in an opening stand of 119 by Manan Vohra and Mayank Agarwal, who scored 56 and 87 before Duminy separated them in the 13th over.
That left the Board XI the task of scoring 71 runs off the remaining 44 balls, which they accomplished handsomely thanks largely to Sanju Samson’s 31 not out.
Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Eddie Leie and Duminy all recorded economy rates in double figures, while Chris Morris was the only one who went for less than seven runs to the over.
Duminy tried hard to take the edge off all that at a press conference after the match: “I have full confidence in the ability of our bowlers and I will back them 100%. I believe they have what it takes to stop the Indian batting line-up.
“This was about figuring out and assessing what will work for us in these conditions. This match wasn’t exactly about results.”
Still, SA will think, good thing they have Albie Morkel’s allround experience in the bank. Perhaps not: team management told reporters in Delhi that Morkel, who cracked the nod only because of David Wiese’s late withdrawal with broken hand, was still trying to obtain a visa on Tuesday.