TELFORD VICE in Canterbury
PERSPECTIVE is more valuable to a cricket team than runs and wickets, and doubly so when players are forced out of their comfort zone — which has happened to South Africa in England.
As if a disappointing one-day series wasn’t bad enough, South Africa crashed out of the Champions Trophy in a fashion remarkable even for them and their torrid tournament history.
Then followed a shocker in the first T20 in Southampton on Wednesday, when they dawdled to a total of 142/3, which England bettered with nine wickets standing and 5.3 overs to spare.
Even considering the format and the visitors’ line-up, which was drawn from an experimental squad, that’s a hiding.
The teams meet again in Taunton on Friday and in Cardiff on Sunday.
Only then will we reach the main course of the English summer: the test series.
Right now that’s a foreboding thought, and less because of the way South Africa are playing — poor though that is — than they way they seem to be thinking.
“I know it doesn’t look like it losing by five-odd overs, but they had the freedom of going after us because they had wickets in hand and we had a low total — it would have been a different game if we had got 20-odd more [runs],” AB de Villiers told reporters after the Southampton saga.
“From the 12th, 13th over we tried to go. We honestly had the intent to take it to them.
“I told [Farhaan Behardien] about 10 an over and we end up getting fives and sixes at times.
“That’s just the nature of the wicket and the plans they had in place.”
De Villiers was talking about the unbroken stand of 110 he shared with Behardien.
South Africa’s captain made an unbeaten 65 and his partner 64 not out in the 15.5 overs they were together.
They shared their team’s record partnership for the fourth wicket and the fourth highest for any of South Africa’s wickets in T20s.
All of which means nothing in the context of the side’s awful performance, which went awry and stayed that way after they lost Jon-Jon Smuts, Reeza Hendricks and David Miller inside the first five overs with only 32 runs scored.
For De Villiers to claim the game would have been different had his team made “20-odd” more runs tells us he is losing perspective.
To say a dressingroom would be better off without De Villiers would have looked stupid not long ago. Now it’s obvious.
De Villiers will bid his teammates so long after Sunday’s game because he has chosen not to play in the test series.
There’s a relief. But the rot doesn’t stop there.
South Africa haven’t been the team they should be since their arrival in England.
Whether that is the fault of someone as senior and integral to the cause as De Villiers picking and choosing the games he will play, or his wooden captaincy, or whether the lame duck status of Russell Domingo is the problem, South Africa are a better team than they have been on this tour.
And South Africans deserve better from them.