TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IT has taken Australia to put SA’s performance in their triseries match against West Indies in Providence on Friday into context.
SA shambled to 188 all out and lost by four wickets. On Sunday, also in Providence, an unchanged West Indian team were bundled out for 116 inside 33 overs and the Aussies needed only four balls more than half their innings to win by six wickets.
This is not T20, where accidents will happen. This is 50-over cricket on a benign pitch, which makes the comparison as valid as it should be disturbing for SA fans.
So, fasten your seatbelts: SA meet Australia on Tuesday. The match will be played in Providence – a word the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines, in its philosophical sense, as “divine guidance or care”.
It’s too easy to wonder out loud whether SA need something like that to get through Tuesday’s game in one piece, not in terms of staying afloat in the triseries as much as the bigger picture of the apparently crumbling edifice of a once strong team.
But we’re reaching that stage of worry. A competitive game against the Aussies, whatever the result, will put it on hold. A hiding inflicted by Steve Smith’s team will bring it on strong.
Perhaps that’s what needed, what with Cricket SA reportedly not willing to grant the now disbanded review panel the mere six months they are said to have asked for to get to the bottom of what has been going wrong for SA for 24 years come tournament time.
AB de Villiers’ team will take all this, and more, onto the field with them on Tuesday. Much of that weight will be on the shoulders of their spinners.
Twenty-two of the 30 wickets that have fallen in the two matches played in the tournament have been claimed by slow bowlers. The trend is unlikely to be bucked on Tuesday.
SA’s most successful bowler on Friday, left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, who took 3/40, wasn’t complaining.
“It was a bit dry, not something that we usually get in SA,” Phangiso said. “So it was very helpful … and if you put our (spinners) wickets together we can also get wickets between the spinners.”
Phangiso, leg spinner Imran Tahir and part-time off-spinner JP Duminy owned all six wickets SA took on the day/night.
West Indian off-spinner Sunil Narine snapped up a half-dozen all on his own. His return of 6/27 was the best by a West Indian bowler in the 59 ODIs the teams have contested and the best by a Windies spinner in all of their 736 games in the format.
“You can always learn from a guy like that,” Phangiso said. “The way he bowled he showed the skill that he has and the kind of lengths to bowl on this kind of wicket.”
No doubt Phangiso aims to emulate Narine’s performance. But for now he is focused on staying in the team: “It’s always great to play games back to back. It gives you a bit of confidence going forward. Hopefully I will just keep on playing and just keep on doing well.”
That sounds bizarre considering Phangiso’s success on Friday. Until we remember that he was the only member of SA’s 2015 World Cup squad not to be given a game at that tournament.
Now, if only we had an independent review panel to look into why that happened and what effect that kind of treatment might have on players …