TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
BY the time you read this a miracle may have visited a spit of land more than 10 000 kilometres from us.
Is that too high and mighty a hope for SA’s triseries match against Australia in St Kitts that would have ended in the wee hours of Sunday morning? Not on the evidence of SA’s first two games.
Somehow they lost the first, against a pale imitation of the best team West Indies could put on the field. Somehow they won the second, against an Australian side at least as mighty as their illustrious forbears. And that after not quite scraping together even 190 runs. Both games were played on the mortuary slab that masquerades as a pitch in Providence, Guyana.
Exciting stuff. For some, at least.
“I wouldn’t like to be trying to market that cricket anywhere,” former SA allrounder and selector Craig Matthews said. “Whether we’re playing well, badly or indifferently, it’s desperate to watch.”
But what does it tell us about the state of SA’s team in a format that, were it not bookended by volumes of absorbing test and exhilarating T20 cricket, would be as grey as a white ball that has seen too many overs?
“It tells you that it’s a pretty new side trying to find their way,” former allrounder and selector Craig Matthews said. “So there’re going to be some ups and downs.
“The conditions (in the Caribbean) also allow for that. If you get on the wrong side of the toss or the conditions it’s difficult to be consistent.
“It’s about the conditions and a new team finding their way. Inconsistency is part of that development.”
Could the complete tournament, played in a contextless vacuum and in conditions SA have to bother acquainting themselves with ever more rarely, supply a decent measure of where AB de Villiers’ men are in their development?
“It’s a team in transition but that transition is probably accentuated because of the conditions,” Matthews said.
“You don’t see Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel (who was left out for the first two games), not even Kyle Abbott (who sat out the Tuesday’s match against Australia).
“Kagiso Rabada is young as an international player and they had three spinners playing, which we don’t see often.
“If you want to make a judgement on where they are as a team, it has to be a judgement on where they are as a team playing in the West Indies.
“You wouldn’t pick anywhere close to the same side if they were playing in SA.”
Which could put a dent in the chests of those who were, rightfully, proud that a SA team featuring a record eight players of colour earned victory the hard way over the Aussies.
Among them was former SA fast bowler Mfuneko Ngam, who said, “We’re on the right track. Sometimes you need some patience to see the results. It shows that the programmes Cricket SA have put in place are starting to deliver results.
“There have been development initiatives for a long time but administrators have not monitored exactly what is going on. Five or six years ago they took a decision to monitor properly and put more programmes in place and spend money on making sure young players are being looked after. Those fruits are being produced now.
“It makes me happy when I see a team that is representative. They are not there because of the quotas. They’re there on merit.”
The win silenced the grinches who do not waste opportunities to point out less than perfect performances from any player who is not white.
Before you check Saturday night’s scorecard see if they are saying anything. Silence would be golden.