TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
THINGS went from bad to worse for South Africa when captain AB de Villiers was fined for maintaining a slow over-rate in the first one-day international against England in Leeds on Wednesday.
De Villiers and his team were shown up in all departments of a match England won by 72 runs.
South Africa will have the opportunity to put matters right in the second of the three matches in Southampton on Saturday.
But the shadow of De Villiers’ indiscretion – it cost him 20% of his match fee – will linger uneasily because it guarantees a ban should he transgress again.
The International Cricket Council’s code of conduct says a “second offence in the same format of the game within 12 months” will incur “the imposition of a suspension for the immediately subsequent one international match in the same format of the game as that in which the offence occurred”.
De Villiers will not need reminding of all that, having been in the same situation he is now after South Africa’s match against India at the 2015 World Cup.
Happily, he managed to stay on the right side of the regulations for the rest of the tournament.
But he copped a two-match ban for a more serious over-rate problem in an ODI series against New Zealand in January 2013.
It will not sit well with South Africans who have high hopes for their team in next month’s Champions Trophy that their captain and star batsman is a serial offender in a basic area of managing his team on the field.
Not that South Africa had a firm enough grip on any aspect of Wednesday’s match.
England’s 339/6 is the highest total in the 39 ODIs played at Headingley, and South Africa were in the running only while Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis were at the crease.
Amla scored 73 and Du Plessis made 67, but what the visitors needed was an innings more like England captain Eoin Morgan’s 107.
“Unfortunately neither of us managed to get through and get a hundred, which makes it easier for the batsmen coming in,” Amla told reporters in Leeds.
“But we both got out in quick succession.
“In any ODI, if somebody gets a hundred it’s going to propel you to a good total.
“Especially if you bat lower down the order – you don’t often get guys batting at four and five coming late in the game and getting hundreds.
“That’s why his innings was certainly a game-changer, as well as Moeen’s 70-odd.
“That allowed England to get 20 or 30 more than what we expected.”
Morgan batted at No. 4 and came to the crease in the 17th over when England were 101/2.
He was dismissed in the 48th to end a stand of 117 – a sixth-wicket record for England in ODIs against South Africa – with Moeen Ali, who scored 77 not out.
Wednesday’s result doesn’t erase the fact that South Africa had won 14 of their previous 16 ODIs.
But it does tell them what they know already: you’re only as good as your last game.