Proteas in Sri Lanka, day 8
So much hard work expended into what would have been a record run-chase on one of the most difficult grounds in the world to chase a target, only for it to splutter and die at the critical stage. Hard to take for the players, and frustrating for supporters, too. But nobody should doubt the effort and commitment of the players.
As always in these contests, the main focus centres on those final overs when the game is drawing to its conclusion. But no team has ever chased that many runs in over 120 ODIs at the R.Premadhasa Stadium so why should we expect the Proteas to have done so?
More pertinent is the question of the bowling skills in the opening Power Play and especially in the final 10 overs which cost 90 runs. South Africa’s ‘death’ bowling has been consistently poor for the last 18 months. That was the problem last night. The run chase was one of the most positive and proactive team innings the national team has produced against a predominantly spin attack for a decade. At no point did they become timid and ‘stuck’. If they had been chasing 280, as they should have been, that batting performance would have resulted in a comfortable win.
If South Africa do not earn any World Cup Super League points in this series, with prospect of away series against India and Australia to come, they could find themselves facing the very real possibility of the Qualifying Tournament in Zimbabwe in early 2023 in order to reach the main event. Many months ago I wrote about the Proteas facing Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Scotland in Harare just to get to the World Cup. Many people scoffed. Lose the next two games here in Colombo and perhaps they may see that nightmares, sometimes, come true.
I instinctively visited the press box, two floors above the commentary boxes, shortly before the start of play to visit my old friends from many previous tours. It was empty and abandoned. The few members of the media who were granted accreditation were shoe-horned into a box at the other end of the ground so as not to compromise the ‘broadcast bubble.’ Still, it was good to work again with fellow commentator Roshan Abeysinghe whom I first met in 2000 during a Triangular Series in which the hosts thrashed South Africa in all three games. That team included Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall and Nicky Boje. Five all rounders. Tonight’s included Andile Phehlukwayo. Where have the all rounders gone?
Second game on Saturday - one day off between matches. The players will rest. The broadcasters, with all our bubble options, have a choice between doing very little and nothing. Think I’m aiming towards the former. Maybe a lengthy corridor walk.