Friday, March 25, 2011

South Africa lose to New Zealand in a Quarter final upset

[Note: This is a result based analysis - I have not watched the match live and hence cannot comment on its nuances]

On South Africa
This is an upset. From whatever angle you look at it, this remains an upset. And especially so after New Zealand squandered a good fightback by Ryder and Taylor to limp to 220 odd.
But this was ALSO a mishap waiting to happen. For all the well laid plans of South Africa coming good, their loss in the hands of England also showed that their batting needed some insurance...especially as they had a non-performing opener. And especially as that opener was their captain Graeme Smith. And what a tragedy that turned out to be for this brilliant and (uncharacteristically, this time) entertaining side...ODI openers are the ones who set the matches up for the rest that follow. This team, which did EVERYTHING ELSE RIGHT, could not replace the malfunctioning opening partner of the classy Hashim Amla.
Over and above their great fielding, varied bowling and resilient lower order batting, the one last fallback that South Africa needed in the pressure cauldrons of WC knockouts was an opener who would come good on a rainy day, who would keep one end for most of the match even if wickets tumbled at other end. Smith never looked like coming good. And unlike Ponting who looked similarly off-colour for much of the league stages, Smith did not come good even when it mattered...not even to banish the 'c' word from the dictionary of South Africans.

On New Zealand
They started similar to the way Sri Lanka started against India in the 1996 Semi finals. Unlike Sri Lanka of '96 though, they never recovered in the batting innings and also did not look like having the bowling side  that could eke out best results from wearing sub-continent surfaces in the 2nd innings of the match.

But once again like so many other times the gritty New Zealanders showed how collective intent can get one up on the best collection of talents. I have not watched their fielding innings but from the position they were in mid-match, it must have taken superhuman self-belief and professional mindset to first hang in even after not getting too many early breakthroughs and making South Africa toil to their 100 run mark.... and then to turn on all cylinders and capitalise when the middle order wickets fell. ]

The beauty of this side is: I must still consider a semi-final win by this side against either England or Sri Lanka (whoever reaches semi-finals) as another upset. Another BIG upset.

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