Jonty Rhodes

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SA’s confidence will have taken a knock

Disappointment for South Africa in the opening game but not for the tournament organisers, not for 50-over cricket and certainly not for the Sri Lankans who were outstanding in every aspect of the game and showed the world how to play a game which requires more subtlety and thinking than is the case T20.

 

South Africa may have been a bit rusty after a three month lay-off, perhaps they were also a bit too keen to make a flying start in their quest to end the ICC tournament 'hoo-doo' that has bugged them since 1998, and perhaps it wasn't the best decision to bowl first, but none of that should detract from Kumar Sangakkara's team and the way they overwhelmed their hosts.

 

South Africa bowled inconsistently during the critical first 15 overs and failed to obey the crucial rule of bowling on one side of the wicket. Some of the credit for that must go to both Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekeratne Dilshan who are both highly skilled in frustrating batsmen with their innovation and inprovisation.

 

Dilshan's inventions at the crease have already earned him a virtual cult following but Sangakkara's habit of hitting virtually any ball into a gap just created by the fielding captain is no less maddening for the bowlers. And just as the bowlers become distracted, the fielders also take their eyes off the ball, metaphorically and literally. The ground fielding certainly wasn't up to South Africa's usual standard.

 

 

Ordinarily a team in South Africa's position would have chosen to bat first and put a healthy total on the board just to try and relax everyone and take some of the pressure out of the situation but I have no doubt Graeme was not alone in taking the decision to bowl first and there were sound reasons for doing so.

 

Apparently he and the senior players simply weren't sure how a 'winter' wicket would play and what a good score would be. At least the decision reflects the confidence in the Proteas camp, a belief that they could chase any target - even against the mighty 'Three Ms' and under lights. Rarely, if ever, can there have been three more unorthodox but potent bowlers as Murali, Mendis and Malinga in the same team. Not in the modern era, anyway.

 

South Africa's confidence will have taken a knock but they know they can still reach the semi-finals with victories against New Zealand and England. They usually start world tournaments faster than any other team and fade at the business end. Perhaps it will be the other way around this time.

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