Behardien’s best shot falls short

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

YOU’RE given a promotion and are intent on making a success of the trust your bosses have placed in you.

An important part of that happening is for most of the 10 other people in your department, and you, to do their jobs properly.

But, when it matters most, just about everything than can go wrong does go wrong.

And there you are, carrying the can and trying to explain it all.

Welcome to Farhaan Behardien’s world.

Asked to captain South Africa’s experimental T20 side against Sri Lanka in the absence of a host of experienced players, Behardien made a fist of things in the freneticism of the first match in Centurion on Friday.

His unbeaten 31 and David Miller’s 40 – and their stand of 51 – earned South Africa a decent 126/6 in a game reduced by rain to 10 overs-a-side.

Superb bowling by Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir, who claimed two wickets each, took the home side to victory by 19 runs.

Two days later at the Wanderers, South Africa were dismissed for 113 on a pitch that wouldn’t have been out of its comfort zone in Colombo.

It was always going to be difficult to stop the Lankans after that, but Behardien’s decision to ask Jon-Jon Smuts to defend seven runs in the last over raised eyebrows – especially as Smuts would bowl his off-spinners to Angelo Mathews, who was well set.

But Mathews’ mobility had been severely restricted by a hamstring injury, and he survived a difficult chance off the first ball of that over.

It could, then, have been different.

Instead, Mathews, pinned to the crease like a butterfly to a board, smashed two sixes to secure victory in the rousing romantic manner.

Thus levelled, the series moved to Newlands for the decider on Wednesday – when almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong and Sri Lanka won by three wickets with a ball to spare.

AB de Villiers’ scored a fine 63 on his return from an elbow injury that has kept him out since June, but – aside from Reeza Hendricks’ 41 and Mangaliso Mosehle’s 32 not out – there was little batting to speak of.

South Africa’s 169/5 is the fourth-highest score in the first innings in the 15 T20 internationals played at Newlands, but they should have made significantly more against the Lankans’ mediocre attack.

Tahir’s 3/18 carried an attack that looked harried and hurried and lost Lungi Ngidi, the series’ leading wicket-taker before the game, to a hip injury after he had bowled two overs.

Worse yet, five catches were spilled and another three that on another night would have been taken fell to earth untouched.

“I think we hung in all the way to the end,” Behardien said afterwards. “The guys fought, we never went away in the 15th or 16th over.”

His major qualm was not with the way his team batted.

“Normally 160 is about par here in day-night games, so we thought 169 was above par,” Behardien said.

“AB held the innings together nicely and Reeza Hendricks batted well; we thought we got a good score.

“The dropped catches cost us.”

Ah, yes, those …

“It was very frustrating; it’s something that you can’t really prepare for.

“We let ourselves down badly in the field and it took the momentum away from our bowlers.

“I can’t put it down to any reason, it was just one of those nights.”

And then there was Ngidi …

“It complicated things quite a lot,” Behardien said.

“He’s been our star bowler in the first two matches and I had to find a couple of overs.

“He was massive loss for us – he was our strike bowler who seemed to get wickets when called upon, so that was a tough blow for us tonight.”

All of which means, right now, that Behardien is the only South African captain to lose a home series to Sri Lanka in the nine rubbers they have played here across all formats.

That’s a cruel fact to hang around the neck of a serious man who made a serious, sincere attempt to get done what he had been asked to get done.

“This will be a bitter pill to swallow but the guys can learn from this,” Behardien said.

“International sport is brutal, but we’ll walk out with our heads held high.

“This is an experience (the players) will never forget and I will never forget – captaining my country.”

We will probably forget much of what has happened since Friday, what with so much cricket being played.

But let’s remember that Behardien gave it his best shot.

He deserves no less. 

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