TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
A funny thing has happened while SA have been figuring out how to smuggle Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock into the same top order and make the most of AB de Villiers’ outrageous talent – their bowling has suffered.
That’s no joke. SA became, against Afghanistan in Mumbai on Sunday, the first team to top 200 in two games in the same World T20 tournament, and going into Monday’s games in the tournament only seven of the 543 internationals played in the format had been won by the team batting second and trying to hunt down targets of more than 200.
But one of those sides are England, who chased 230 to beat SA in Mumbai on Friday.
In fact, three times in those seven games the losing team have been SA. No-one else has put up 200 and lost more than once.
A mitigating factor is that two of SA’s three losses under these circumstances were suffered at the Wanderers, where the conditions gift teams runs just for turning up. A total of 200 there is worth closer to 180 at many other grounds.
Also, SA have passed 200 batting first more times than any other team – in eight T20s. Australia are next on that list with six, but they’ve only lost once.
So, the point stands: bowlers? WTF?
“In India you don’t give up. You are going to go for runs. The thing is always to compete. If you go for six, you compete with the next ball.”
That was SA bowling coach Charl Langeveldt the previous time he was in India, for SA’s tour there last year. He was speaking the day before SA began what would be a successful one-day series, which followed the visitors’ victory in the T20 rubber.
“These are not easy conditions to bowl in so the bowlers’ mindset is important and we try and enforce that. If we are competing with every ball there’s a good chance we are going to win the game.”
Have SA’s bowlers been competitive consistently enough at the WT20?
Not against England, where they were saddled with an unwanted record of conceding the most runs in the first two overs of a T20 – 44 – and did not reel in the achieved run rate to less than the required rate at any stage of the innings.
Neither did SA have an answer to Mohammad Shahzad cutting loose with gusto in his 19-ball 44 for Afghanistan on Sunday. Happily for Faf du Plessis’ men, there were no more where Shahzad came from.
Much has been made of SA’s propensity for giving away extras at the WT20, where they have conceded 26 runs in wides in 39.4 overs.
But they are also not aiming at the stumps often enough. Only two of the eight Englishmen SA dismissed were bowled or out leg-before. Just four Afghans went that way – three of them thanks to Chris Morris, the only SA seam bowler who looked like he knew what he was doing.
Where have all the yorkers gone? Gone to the variation graveyard, almost every one.
Or, as Lance Klusener said, “I’ve yet to meet the guy who can hit a yorker for six. When someone should have bowled a yorker and they don’t and they get smashed, they say ‘I was trying my variations’.
“And coaches will say, ‘Well done for trying your variations’.”
Not the rest of us. We’re yelling at our televisions: “Full and straight, you idiot!”