SA underbelly hardens in New Zealand

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

UNDERBELLIES are invariably derided as soft, but South Africa’s is becoming a hard, toned six-pack on their tour of New Zealand.

In the first match of the one-day series, in Hamilton last Sunday, Andile Phehlukwayo, batting at No. 8, delivered the brave-hearted batting that was needed to help AB de Villiers drag South Africa over the line with a ball to spare.

Three days later in Christchurch, No. 7 Dwaine Pretorius and No. 10 Phehlukwayo took the visitors closer than they should have been to victory before New Zealand scrambled a six-run win.

On Saturday in Wellington, Wayne Parnell, at No. 8, partnered De Villiers in a much needed stand of 84 that was too soon forgotten when South Africa’s juggernaut pace attack ripped through the Kiwis on a seaming pitch.

Having totalled 271/8 with De Villiers’ 85 the centrepiece, the visitors made the New Zealanders look like penguins on prozac and sent them packing for 112 in 32.2 overs to win by 159 runs.

How’bout those middle order munchkins, Russell Domingo?

“It’s been a feature of our side’s play over the last year that the younger players have all come in and put in performances straightaway, which says a lot about where the team is at the moment and the culture of the group,” Domingo told reporters in Wellington.

“It’s always pleasing when new players are stepping up and not relying on one or two players. It’s very much a collective effort at the moment.

“Everybody, at different stages, is stepping up and putting in big performances – like we showed in the last game in Christchurch.

“Although we lost the game, there were some outstanding performances from some young, new players.

“Those are good signs for us.” 

And yet Domingo wasn’t completely satisfied after Saturday’s display.

“It was still not the perfect game by a long way,” he said.

“There’s still room for improvement but I’m really satisfied by the way the bowlers went about their business on a good wicket to bowl on. The disciplines were exceptional.”

They were, and Domingo wouldn’t be human if he didn’t harbour a hope that some of those disciplines would rub off on his top six.

South Africa were 114/1 in the 23rd over on Saturday. Sixteen overs later they were 180/6. That’s a swing of 5/66.

In Christchurch, they were steaming towards success needing 105 off the last 14 overs with six wickets standing. Then AB de Villiers and David Miller got themselves out a dozen balls apart and the pressure multiplied.

But the unsung villain, both on Saturday and in Christchurch, was Quinton de Kock. It’s an unfair charge considering he scored 57 and 68 in those games, but that’s not going to be considered good enough for a player who did not fail to convert a half-century into three figures the first six times he went past 50 in ODIs.

“I suppose he would feel a little disappointed in the manner of some of his dismissals,” Domingo said.

“But that’s the nature of how he plays. He is such an aggressive player and I by no means want to curb his natural instinct.

“He is still a baby, its hard to believe he is only 24.”

Domingo also marvelled at the facts that “(Kagiso Rabada) is only 21, Andile is only 20”.

The kids are indeed alright. There’s nothing “only” about them.

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