Much like my final maths paper in matric, the Proteas recent tour Down Under has left the South African public with a lot more questions than there are answers.
South Africa’s brief tour to New Zealand is but a distant memory now, almost as though it didn’t exist. We hammered the Black Caps 2-nil in their ODI series before making the trip across the Tasman for a slightly longer tour (the third match was rained off). The T20 series was lost 2 – 1 and the ODI series 4 – 1 in what was a productive learning curve for the Proteas ahead of the 2015 World Cup. Let’s take a closer look at some of the major talking points from the skirmishes between the Proteas and the Aussies.
What we’ve learned so far:
1. Steve Smith is a butterfly
When Steven Peter Devereux Smith emerged on the international circuit in 2010, he was talked up as the next Shane Warne. The 21 year-old came into the Aussie side as a promising leggie who could bat a bit. Fast forward some four years and that little leg-spinning caterpillar has burst free from his silk woven cocoon-prison. He is now a most beautiful butterfly and one of the most feared batsmen in international cricket. It all started with his maiden Test ton at the Oval last year; since then he has been on the rampage with a further three Test tons to go with his two in ODI’s. He was named Man of the Series against the Proteas for his 254 runs (Ave 84.6) and thus virtually confirmed his spot for the World Cup and fluttered his pretty little wings high into the cricket sky alongside fellow butterfly Angelo Mathews.
2. Channel 9 knows how to cover a cricket match
The commentary team are legendary if not cult like, thanks in large to Billy Birmingham’s The 12th man. However, it is not the only thing that makes watching Aussie cricket so pleasant. For years the Channel 9 folks have been at the forefront of technology and are constantly finding new and innovative ways to bring the game of cricket to life for it’s viewers. Spider-cam, hawk-eye, third umpire mics, awesome graphics and some of the most colourful personalities in commentary make for a great viewing experience…even if they are a tad
3. Wayne Parnell’s hairdo is still not cool
I’m no fashionista, nor will I ever be. We need Samuel L Jackson to march into the Proteas change room and belt out his famous ‘Enough is enough’ line from the greatest movie ever made, Snakes on a Plane. Parny’s hairdo is zero cool, no matter what angle you look at it from. Julian Savea had a similar thing going earlier in the year and despite cooking on the field, he very wisely chose to get the snip. I’ve seen a few folks wondering around with the ‘Parny cut’ including that Vic newsreader bloke from 5fm, but that’s not exactly who you want to be compared to Wayne. Oh and his bowling probably needs some trimming too.
4. AB de Villiers is a freak, not an allrounder
Is there anything this man cannot do on a cricket field? He has proven that time and time again just how wonderful he is with the bat, behind the stumps and in the field. Whilst we are fascinated that he can bowl, let’s all calm it down a touch. Yes he’s not a bad bowler, but he is not a good bowler either and should not be tasked with bowling many, if any, overs in a One Day International. As far as his batting goes, he is like a bag of Chuckles from Woolworths – simply the best thing money can buy.
5. The Proteas lineup is about as balanced as a one legged giraffe on a tight rope
A lot of this will be as a result of point 7, but my giddy aunt there is something not right about the make up of our side at the moment! If we were a spaceship we’d have Neil Armstrong on radio to base saying ‘Houston we have a problem’. Kallis and Duminy’s absence has been felt predominantly in the make up of the side as we tend to be either a batsman or a bowler light. McLaren, Parnell and Philander’s batting has been poor and they seem incapable at number seven and eight, whilst playing Behardien and AB as a fifth bowler is rather silly. Either McLaren, Parnell and Philander need to up their game with the willow or we need to find ourselves a genuine allrounder, much like the Aussies have in Watson, Marsh, Faulkner and even Maxwell.
6. Australia have more depth than a Wimpy bottomless coffee
This relates to the above point. The Aussies suffer the same problem as the Proteas, they can’t figure out who the right personnel is for their XI. Whilst we are struggling to find the right blokes, they are spoiled for choice and can’t decided on who’s the best out of a talented lot! Steve Smith wasn’t in the original squad and claimed Man of the Series, Michael Clarke didn’t feature, Mitchell Johnson only played two games, Ryan Harris was on First-Class duty and Mitchell Marsh punished us a few times and then got asked to get some four day games under the belt. Now there’s even talk of there being no place for Glenn Maxwell in the side? No place for the Big Show? Wowzers trousers these chaps are in a good space!
7. JP Duminy is more valuable than water to an aquarium
If you ever wondered just how important JP’s role in the Proteas lineup was, then this series certainly showed you. His value as both a batsman and a bowler are of paramount importance to the team’s success, not only in the specific disciplines of the game, but so too in the teams balance. Without him the Proteas seemed as lost as a fart in a toilet and we can only hope that he makes a speedy recovery to solidify the team somewhat.
8. South Africa’s death bowling is more desperate than Frank Gallagher at the end of the month
For years now the Proteas have had issues with getting rid of the tail and bowling at the death. The top order don’t seem to be a problem for our boys, but as soon as things get to the back end of an innings we struggle. In New Zealand, the Black Caps number 11’s caused more headaches than the openers and in Australia we got pounded at the death. Half trackers and length deliveries in the last ten overs of an innings are about as useful as a Land Rover on a Cape to Cairo trip. What happened to the good old fashioned toe-crushing yorker? Has no one heard of this Malinga bloke? I’m told he’s a fairly decent death bowler, surely we could learn a thing or two from him?
9. Extras are great in movies, terrible in cricket
Hollywood actor Russell Crowe’s cousin and former Black Caps skipper Martin Crowe once (almost) famously had a role as an extra on the set of the blockbuster Gladiator. That is about as great as an extra can be in cricket, unless you are the batting team of course in which case they are fantastic. Over the course of the five-match ODI series South Africa conceded a total of 72 extras (34 wides, 10 no-balls, 6 byes and 22 leg byes). The majority of those extras came from the first match in Perth when South Africa’s 29 extras helped Australia to a match winning total of 300. South Africa’s fielding wasn’t too flash either. Despite their usual high standards, the Proteas dropped several catches and missed many direct hits over the series. Mind you the Aussies weren’t too sharp either conceding 73 extras in the series, however their fielding was somewhat better and they only conceded two no-balls (rather handy when one considers the free-hit rule). Thus if you include the free-hit runs, South Africa conceded over 100 runs over the course of the series.
10. Don’t panic mechanic, there’s no malaria in the area
Despite all of this nonsense mentioned above, there is no need to get too uptight. We lost to the Aussies in their backyard which is no shame at all. Two of the matches were lost with an over to spare and we were able to test some of our lesser known resources in a World Cup simulated environment. A fully fit South African team will be difficult to stop at the World Cup. The five-match series against the Windies at home will help Domingo and co to fine tune their selections, although they should have a pretty clear idea of who they want to take by now. The Australasian tour would have given the Proteas valuable insight and experience into what they can expect for next year, something that they will no doubt put into practice come February/March 2015.