Another day, crunch game for SA

Times Media


ANOTHER day, another must-win match. SA staved off the ignominy of a second home series loss on the same tour when they beat England at Centurion on Tuesday – but to keep that gloomy prospect at bay they need to do so again at the Wanderers on Friday.

That’s because the visitors remain within a win of adding the one-day series to the test rubber they clinched convincingly last month.

But SA will not be out of the woods even if they win on Friday. Only if they also finish on top at Newlands on Sunday will they have a reason to be cheerful.

However, that will last only until the first of the two T20s at Newlands next Friday.

There is plenty to attract those with the requisite talent and skill to the life of the international cricketer.

But, when the going is less than good, it can feel like the life of a fireman working overtime – so many fires to put out, so little time to put them out.

And the Wanderers is a place of bonfires rather than braaifires. So much so that three of the four highest totals scored in the 3736 ODIs yet played have been smashed onto the Bullring’s scoreboard.

On top of that, there has been no shortage of aggressive intent from batsmen in this series. England posted 399/9 in Bloemfontein and, at Centurion, SA chased down 319 with seven wickets standing and 22 balls to spare.

Five centuries have been scored in three matches in a rubber in which runs have flowed at faster than a run-a-ball and batsmen average 48.94. Both teams have yet to be dismissed.

Or as one of those centurions, Joe Root, said: “It’s amazing as a batting side because you don;t know what a good score is anymore.”

Even so, all those runs didn’t score themselves. So it made sense that Kyle Abbott emphasised the importance of clear-eyed simplicity on Friday.

“We’ll be looking to start from scratch and build those bases on what got us to those good totals and winning those games,” Abbott said on Thursday. “It’s all a process – it doesn’t happen in one or two overs, it happens over 50.

“The guys will be looking to do that and keep up our record and hopefully put a bit more pressure on the series, which is building more on England than it is on us at the moment.”

That last bit was opinion, of course. But it’s a fact that the pitch for Friday’s game is not in the middle of the table, which means one square boundary will be significantly shorter than the other and only adds to the challenge of playing at one of cricket’s most storied arenas.

“We’re going to have to manage that, not only from the bowling side but also from the batting side,” Abbott said.

“There’s also the altitude – the ball travels a lot further here. There’s a few things to take into consideration.”

Like what?

“Sometimes a shot that’s not well-timed can go for four or even six here. It is quite challenging but the key for us is going to be to compete in every over.”

Good luck with that, Mr Abbott. And good luck getting it done in pink – which the South Africans will wear to raise awareness, and money, in the fight against breast cancer.


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