TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHY doesn’t cricket learn from baseball and cancel the remaining matches of a series that has been decided?
SA’s players wouldn’t have been human if they didn’t think that thought as they made the trip to Kolkata for Thursday’s third Twenty20 international against India – a match that was rendered redundant when the visitors won the first two games.
But, for one Saffer, Thursday’s match is anything but irrelevant. “It’s very satisfying,” Albie Morkel told a press conference after he took 3/12 in SA’s series-clinching six-wicket win in Cuttack on Monday.
“I’ve had a long pre-season with the Titans. So I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the winter but without any visions of playing for SA. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
“Sometimes it’s tough on the field but this was my night. The next game will be someone else’s chance. It is, I suppose, fortunate that on my comeback I got a man-of-the-match.
“That’s something I’ll remember forever. But I’ll certainly not make any statement that I should be a permanent member (of the team).”
Before Monday’s game, Morkel’s most recent outing for SA was also against India – the 2014 World T20 semi-final in Dhaka. He missed SA’s next 11 matches in the format before David Wiese’s loss to a broken hand was Morkel’s gain.
“A freak accident with David Wiese two weeks ago gave me the opportunity, and the boys welcomed me into the side very quickly,” Morkel said.
Someone who might be given an opportunity on Thursday is Quinton de Kock, who has yet to play in the series. De Kock was named in the T20 and one-day squads but left out of the test equation after struggling on SA’s tour to Bangladesh in July. SA’s other benchwarmers in the first two games have been Eddie Leie and Khaya Zondo.
For the Indians Thursday’s match is an opportunity for redemption. At least, that’s what Harbhajan Singh tried hard to tell reporters in Kolkata.
“We have lost the series but we still have a lot to play in the final game,” Harbhajan said. “Hopefully we will win and from there onward it could be a different story. Every game is a challenge for us from here on.”
Harbhajan was hopeful India would get a little help from their 66 000-odd friends who could fill the concrete cavern called Eden Gardens.
“Yes we have lost the series and we didn’t play as well as we should have but Eden is always a very special ground for all of us,” he said.
“Obviously winning here will mean a lot to us. We will go out there and give it our best shot. If we win here we will take that confidence into the one-day series (that starts in Kanpur on Sunday).”
India have won six of their last 10 matches, across all formats, at Eden Gardens. SA, however, have won only two of the six games they have played against India there.
Perhaps it’s a good thing for the visitors that Thursday’s match doesn’t matter.