TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
BY almost every measure SA and not West Indies should have been Australia’s opponents in the triseries final in Bridgetown in Barbados on Sunday.
But the men in maroon made it to their own party at Kensington Oval, leaving SA to wonder where it had all gone wrong.
“It’s going to be a good game,” De Villiers had told reporters in Bridgetown on Friday. “We’ll see what happens. Both teams are playing pretty well. Both teams have good matchwinners in their side. So it would be nice to maybe just sit back and watch a game of cricket.”
Not for the first time on Sunday, De Villiers would have sat back and watched Australia play they way many of his compatriots would like his team to play more often. Not for the first time, he would have seen the home side make beatable opponents, this time by 58 runs.
And that after SA faced the identical Windies XI at the same venue on Friday and bellyflopped out of the running for a place in the final with what their captain called “a horrible performance”.
Well might South Africans wonder why they weren’t slumped on the couch at 3am on Monday blearily willing their team towards the trophy.
As a batting team SA had the second-highest runrate in the tournament and their bowlers took wickets at the second-lowest average. Australia led both of those lists with the Windies lagging last. SA’s bowlers were the most economical of the lot.
“We started something special in the last year, after the World Cup,” De Villiers said of the one-day side. “We went to India (last year) and had a fantastic (series) win there. At home (last season), we were 2-0 down and won three in a row (against England).
“So there’s definitely a belief in the camp that we can win from any position and make it work from anywhere. It’s sad that we couldn’t do that (on Friday) and in this series. I don’t think we were close to our best throughout.
“We still managed to win some games, which is a positive. But, unfortunately, when it mattered most we couldn’t pull through. That’s very disappointing.”
Disappointed De Villiers surely was. Enough to use the word “unfortunately” 10 times in an audio clip of not quite five-and-a-half minutes.
He should be unhappy. It means nothing that his team were ahead of the West Indians in almost every stat because they were behind in the only stat that matters – they didn’t win as many games.
So it was indeed unfortunate and disappointing that, also not for the first time, SA performed like a team smaller than the sum of their parts.
Unfortunately, until they fix that problem this won’t be the last time they disappointment themselves and their supporters.