SA still smiling as series starts to slip slide away

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THE tension will be cuttable with a sosatie stick when SA and England meet in the third one-day international in Centurion on Tuesday. That wasn’t the case the last time the teams were in Titantown, to play the fourth test last month.

Then, the series had been decided at the Wanderers a match earlier. This time, it’s on the line. Not only that, England will become the first team since Australia in 2002 to claim both the test and one-day rubbers on the same tour to SA if they win on Tuesday.

That bomb was set ticking when England won by five wickets at St George’s Park on Saturday, which followed their 39-run victory in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.

In Bloem, SA paid the price for bowling poorly on a pitch that was generous to batsmen. On an elementally Eastern Cape surface in PE, SA batted as if they were suffering flashbacks to the engineered unfairness of the Nagpur test, in which a rut masqueraded a pitch.

SA have thus lost the first two ODIs as much as England have won them, not least because the visitors have read and used the conditions better.

It would be disingenuous to argue that SA play from memory when they make rare stops in places like Bloem and PE. England’s visits there are far fewer and further between.

Like addicts do when they introduce themselves at support group meetings, SA need to acknowledge their problems: “Hello. My name is (AB/Faf/Hashim/AN Other) and I’m part of a team in decline.”

And yet, SA are talking like they are giving as good as they’re getting.

Here’s AB de Villiers on the total of 262/7 SA reached on Saturday: “I thought 280 was par. Three hundred would have been nice. We’ve got the potential in our batting line-up to get scores like this.

“Unfortunately I got out at a bad time and a couple of dismissals later we were in trouble. We actually did well to get 260.”

Also unfortunately, “potential” is useless if it isn’t converted into performance, just as “doing well” means nothing if the opposition cruise past the target with 22 balls to spare.

Speaking of the opposition …

“They are playing some good cricket at the moment; they look confident but they are not unbeatable,” De Villiers said.

“We had a couple of opportunities in both games we played – sounds like I am singing the same song from the test matches but it’s true. It’s a matter of getting it right and taking our opportunities.

“In Bloem we had a chance to get it right. I knew that rain was going to come and we didn’t get the timing right. Today again, we had the opportunity to take them down and unfortunately it didn’t happen that way.”

The fact is that SA have indeed proved England unbeatable on this tour, dead rubbers notwithstanding.

“Take them down”? Better for SA that they find a way to stand up.

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