How to win? Clue: what you think doesn’t matter

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THINK less. Do more. If SA could get that into their heads they would be a far more successful team, particularly in the shorter formats.

Their capacity to make that leap will be tested again at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown in Barbados on Friday when they must beat West Indies to reach the triseries final against Australia at the same ground on Sunday.

Thinking too much and doing too little has been at the root of most of SA’s one-day disasters. But, when the pressure was on in another match at Kensington Oval – this one played 11 years ago – one Saffer dared to rely on deeds rather than listen to the whispers deep in his head.

“The ground has changed a lot,” Charl Langeveldt, now SA’s bowling coach, then about to cement his reputation as unarguably the best death bowler his country has produced, told reporters in Barbados.

“It was still wooden. The changerooms were on the other side. But the memory is still there.”

Going into the penultimate over on May 11 2005, the Windies had four wickets with which to score the 10 runs they needed to beat SA. They were seven down when the last over started but only four runs away from winning. Langeveldt stood at the top of his mark …

“One of the locals reminded me. He said, ‘I watched your video just yesterday and here’s the man’. He asked me about it. He said, ‘Take me through what you were thinking’. I said, ‘I wasn’t thinking about a lot’.

“I wasn’t thinking about the outcome because as soon as you start thinking about the outcome you’re not going to perform the way you want to.

“Before the last over there was hardly any pressure because we were expecting to lose the game. So once I got the first wicket (Ian Bradshaw, bowled) I knew we had a chance.

“(Daren) Powell walked in wearing a cap and I thought I should bounce him because that’s disrespect to a fellow fast bowler. But I also thought he’s going to play with his ego, so I went full.

“But not that full because I thought if it’s too full he’s going to try and hit me over my head. So it was the perfect delivery (which bowled Powell).

“And then, when I saw Corey (Collymore), I thought this is probably the best batsman to bowl at if you want to take a hattrick. He’s a proper tailender.

“Bowling that last ball, as soon as I delivered I knew it was out. I thought he was bowled – I got fined because it was lbw and I didn’t appeal, I didn’t turn around to the umpire. It was probably the most expensive hattrick in world cricket.”

And a priceless lesson in performing when it matters. Like it will on Friday and, if SA stay alive, Sunday.

“We’re obviously thinking about the final as well but Friday is the most important,” Langeveldt said. “We’re focusing on that.”

A large part of that focus will be on the make-up of the attack. Spinners ruled in the first three matches of the triseries, which were played in Guyana – where the slow men took 31 wickets compared to the quicks’ 17. In St Kitts, the venue for the next three games, seamers claimed 23 scalps and spinners 17.

SA’s match against Australia in Bridgetown on Sunday was washed out after one over but the home side and the Aussies played a full game on Tuesday. Ten wickets went to fast bowlers and just one to a spinner. 

“We’re not sure who we’re going to go for but we’re preparing as if all the seamers are going to play,” Langeveldt said.

Whoever plays, Langeveldt will hope they show off some of what he has been working on since he succeeded Allan Donald as bowling coach last June. 

“Especially in our one-day and T20 cricket, we were lacking in the skills department,” Langeveldt said. “It was a conscious decision to try and uplift our skills. It’s come up in leaps and bounds. We’re getting there but it’s still a work in progress.

“Hopefully in the next few months we’ll get to where everyone’s got a different slower ball, everyone can bowl a yorker at will, everyone can bowl a slower ball bouncer. That’s the ultimate.”

Correction: the ultimate, at least for now, is winning on Friday and Sunday.

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