From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.40 :: Oct. 03, 2009
The pressure was on Graeme Smith and his men after the setback they suffered against Sri Lanka in the inaugural match of the Champions Trophy. The host required to beat New Zealand to stay in contention for a place in the semifinals.
The Kiwis are not quite the force they once were in this format, but then the side still had a few cricketers who could greatly influence a game.
In the event, it was a brave decision by Smith to chase. South Africa’s pursuit under lights had come unstuck against Sri Lanka and questions were being asked about the home skipper’s decision to bat second. There was a difference though — this was a day game. Perhaps, Smith wanted to give his pacemen an opportunity to exploit the moisture in the wicket in a match starting at 9.30 am.
Left-arm paceman Wayne Parnell did strike early. He had largely disappointed against Sri Lanka, losing his length as Tillekeratne Dilshan cut loose. This time round, he hit better areas. Parnell scalped five wickets to walk away with the ‘Man of the Match’ award.
The bowlers set up the South African victory as the Kiwis lost their last five wickets for 11 runs in 18 balls to end up with a disappointing 214.
The South Africans, guided by Abraham de Villiers (70 not out, 76b, 9x4), were home in the 42nd over. Smith and his men had lived to fight another day.
The fluent de Villiers batted with good footwork and timing. He drove with panache through the covers and whipped the ball off his legs. He is a busy batsman who keeps the scoreboard moving even when he is not finding the boundaries.
Given the nature of the surface — there was some purchase for the spinners and more than a hint of uneven bounce — it could have been a tricky chase. The Kiwis were in with a sniff at one stage but sorely missed a second spinner who could have lent skipper Daniel Vettori support.
The South Africans seldom got bogged down even when the Kiwis struck at regular intervals. Hashim Amla (38) played a couple of glorious strokes through the off-side and Kallis (36) timed the ball well on either side of the wicket.
There was a moment of sheer brilliance when wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, standing up to paceman Kyle Mills, pouched an under-edge as the left-handed Jean-Paul Duminy nicked an attempted cut. However, de Villiers, supported well by Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel, had the final say.
Earlier, Steyn and Parnell combined well, both at the beginning and the end of the New Zealand innings. This is a right-left pace bowling pair with immense possibilities.
Steyn bent his back to extract some bounce from the surface and gave little away. He employed the short ball to prevent the batsmen from getting on to the front foot and denied them the width.
During the later stages of the innings, Parnell smartly went round the wicket to cut down on the width. His victims included a fighting Ross Taylor (72, 106b, 6x4, 2x6) who missed a full length ball to be adjudged leg-before.
Left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe impressed as well. He straightened the ball on a few occasions, spun it away sharply on the others. The South African castled a well-set Grant Elliott (39, 48b, 4x4) when the batsman played inside the line of a delivery that drifted in and then straightened. This dismissal, as Vettori revealed later, marked a turning point in the contest. Taylor and Elliott were building a sizeable partnership and the Kiwis planned to take the batting Power Play soon.
On a crucial day, South Africa had the men for the occasion.
New Zealand 214 in 47.5 overs (B. McCullum 44, R. Taylor 72, G. Elliott 39, W. Parnell five for 57) lost to South Africa 217 for five in 41.1 overs (H. Amla 38, J. Kallis 36, A. de Villiers 70 not out, M. Boucher 28).
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