Slow series starters? Not SA

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

FAF du Plessis usually goes beyond the obvious when he talks cricket, a sport for the deeply thoughtful that is nevertheless bogged down in blandishments by players whose attempts to “express ourselves” tend to be limited to what they do on the field.

Blame it on media training that makes all of them sound the same or the worrying and increasing corporatisation of cricket, or on the truth that those who play a good game rarely are able to also talk a good game. But the fact is players’ views are often the least interesting aspect of cricket’s discourse.

However, after SA’s convincing performance in their Twenty20 series in India, Du Plessis could be forgiven a few obviousnesses.

“The way you start is important,” Du Plessis, SA’s T20 captain, said. “Starting with a couple of losses it’s hard to pull yourself back up because when India are on top they play really well.

“It was really important for us as a T20 side to start well because we are the team that’s starting the tour off.

“To be 2-0 up against India in India is a big achievement for us and we are really proud of that.”

And so they should be. They had, after all, earned two wins that added up to more than the sum of their parts.

The first, in Dharamsala on Friday, gripped both nations’ attentions with knuckles white as SA fought their way out of trouble with impressive resolve and verve. In the second, in Cuttack on Monday, there was only one team on the field and they weren’t the boys in blue.

So much so that many in a crowd of 44 790 were enraged enough to interrupt play twice by hurling plastic bottles filled with who knows what at men who not much earlier had stepped across the boundary as their heroes.

“It’s not nice to see that,” Du Plessis, an enthusiastic Indophile, said. “I have played five years of cricket in India (for Chennai Super Kings) and I have never seen that.

“You want to come here and compete and have the best team win. To have that happening, it’s not nice for cricket. It shouldn’t happen.”

It’s a reach, admittedly, but perhaps the spectators lost their bottle because “it shouldn’t happen” that SA live up to their billing early in a series.

That’s the theory – that SA tend to hit the ground running, but in the wrong direction. So, some of those Cuttack chuckers might have thought, what the hell did they think they were doing playing so well so soon in the tour?

But, like most thumbsucks, this one falls flat in the face of the facts. Which are that, since readmission, of the 162 games SA have played across all formats as the first contest of a bilateral series, they have won 94 and lost 40.

That’s a first-match winning percentage of 58.02. The same stat for Australia, England and India is 53.87%, 44.51% and 35.98% respectively.

SA are slow starters? Obviously not.

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