Mar 292014
South Africa learn the art of survival

South Africa are in the semifinals and they have already won three tight contests, the latest to eliminate England. Can they survive the pressure this time?

Wayne Parnell celebrates after dismissing Alex Hales, England v South Africa, World Twenty20 2014, Group 1, Chittagong, March 29, 2014

Wayne Parnell showed no hangover from his Mumbai court appearance © Getty Images

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Sssshhh. Nobody tell South Africa this was actually a knockout match. They already know the next one is and they can’t handle that sort of that pressure. Or can they?

Twice before in this tournament they sneaked through in tense chases. Another South African side – take your pick from the class of the ’99 World Cup to the ones of the World T20 2014 – would have fluffed one or probably both of those. This South African side did not but still they earned very little praise for their efforts.

The armchair critics found fault with everything from the composition of the batting line-up to which bowlers were being selected – and most of it was justified. South Africa relied on a combination of fortune and fumbling from the other side. They did not look convincing and they knew it.

“We hadn’t played really well up until tonight,” AB de Villiers, who stood as captain for the suspended Faf du Plessis, said.

With that in mind, South Africa had to rectify their issues against England because their would be no second chance. Although the bowlers sent down 10 extra deliveries with nine wides and a no-ball in challenging conditions in which the dew was so dense it could have been mistakes for rain, the batsmen showed what they are capable of when their plan comes together.

A solid start followed by the best batsmen in the side, AB de Villiers, coming in at No. 3 can produce the sparkling results some predicted a South African team with the personnel they have at their disposal should be able to dish up.

Stuart Broad called de Villiers’ knock match defining. “The whole game was pretty much reliant on AB’s knock,” he said. De Villiers called it soul defining. “I’ve been sitting on the side for the last three games and not doing well. I’ve spent a few nights lying in bed, thinking about my batting and why it’s not going well. I was very motivated to help my team get over the line.”

De Villiers is at his best, not when he is batting at No. 3 but when he believes he is representing something bigger than himself. That is what he had to do in this match. “I’m not sure if it’s about the position you bat in,” he said. “I came in after the 10th over which is what the coaching staff want.”

Responsibility was on him to make sure that Faf du Plessis, the man he gave the T20 captaincy to in December 2012, but who was suspended here, could lead in another game.

“That was more of a reason for me to be motivated and make sure we go to the semis,” he said. “I wanted to give Faf the opportunity to take the team further.”

When he passed 30 for the first time in ten innings, taking 14 off Jade Dernbach’s comeback over, he showed his intent to do that. De Villiers played an astonishing range of shots that included the reverse paddle and a six over the leg-side which left Broad on his knees, almost literally. He said it was not part of a targeted assault on the bowler; just a desire to get going.

“We hadn’t had a lot of big overs up until then. I felt settled. I read him well and unfortunately for him his execution wasn’t spot on.”

Wayne Parnell, the bowler South Africa slotted straight back into the XI following his return from testifying at a Mumbai court, almost had similar problems when his third over when for 11 but by then he had already done the damage. Including him was the second thing South Africa got right after not quite getting the balance of their bowlers correct in previous matches.

Parnell was included at fellow left-armer Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s expense and de Villiers indicated they will stick with him as crunch times looms. “He is an absolute match-winner. I would love to have him in my team every day and I think we’ve seen very little of what is to come from him.”

What is to come is what everyone is waiting for because this is where South Africa’s real test starts. They are into the final four and the talk they have wanted to avoid will begin. They will be reminded that they have not won a knockout match at an ICC event in 16 years, since their victory in the Champions Trophy predecessor in 1998, just as they have been reminded of their failings at major tournaments at every one after that.

If they approach it with the same nonchalance they have all the chiding they have received so far, the people they may end up surprising the most will be themselves.

Mar 222014
'We lost momentum at the death' - de Villiers

‘Conceded 15 runs too many’ – de Villiers

With five overs to go in their opening match at the World T20, South Africa were 115 for 3, needing another 51 runs to win. At the same stage of their innings, Sri Lanka had been 117 for 4. That South Africa failed to get over the line owed something to Sri Lanka’s wicket-taking ability and something to a familiar failing of nerve by the chasing side.

Sachithra Senanayake had delivered a tight spell and he capped it by having the set batsman, JP Duminy, caught on the boundary in the 16th over. The lurking threat of Lasith Malinga, who still had two overs to bowl, was perhaps the reason that Albie Morkel tried – and failed – to hit a third consecutive six over long-on against Ajantha Mendis in the 17th. Although the required rate continued to hover around ten an over, South Africa were now five down and the incoming batsman would find he had been left with too much to do.

AB de Villiers, captaining the side in place of the injured Faf du Plessis, said that the plan had been to make sure that no more than eight runs were required off the final over, knowing that Malinga would bowl it. They were left needing 15 and Imran Tahir’s six off the last ball perhaps made the result seem closer than it had been.

“There were two areas where we lost the game,” de Villiers said. “They certainly got 15 too many, we were very poor in the field. They ran twos on way too many occasions. Too many extras and we’ve been guilty of that in the past, so something we have to work on and have to get right if we’re going to do well in this tournament.

Albie Morkel swings the ball over midwicket, South Africa v Sri Lanka, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong, March 22, 2014

Albie Morkel fell attempting a third consecutive six © Getty Images

“Then we lost wickets at bad times, I got out at a bad time. When it gets close like that and it’s a crunch game, you lose wickets at the wrong time and you lose the game. We lost our momentum towards the end, we needed to get it down to no more than eight off Malinga’s last over because he’s a really good death bowler, we couldn’t do that. Unfortunately we were just not good enough on the day, I thought we were nowhere near 100 percent and that’s the disappointing part. I don’t mind losing games if we play at 100 percent but we just weren’t good enough today.”

South Africa have been reluctant to move de Villiers up the order, despite calls for him to be given more time to affect the course of matches, but the dismissal of Quinton de Kock, a left-hander, meant JP Duminy was preferred. De Villiers reiterated the view that his skills were more required in the middle overs.

“With Sri Lanka’s spinners, we felt it was important to keep that right-left combination at the crease, so when Quinton de Kock got out we thought it was the best option for us to send JP in, to keep them guessing,” de Villiers said. “That’s why if Hash got out, I would have gone in, just to keep them on their toes. But we feel it’s important with the good spinners.”

As it transpired, Amla struggled for fluency and after eight overs South Africa were 47 for 1, with the pressure beginning to rise. Duminy tucked into Thisara Perera and Mendis to help add 28 more by the halfway stage and, with de Villiers alongside him, South Africa appeared to be edging back into the contest, only for both to fall trying to force the pace. De Villiers said going after Mendis had been premeditated but his dismissal of Albie effectively ended the chase.

“It was touch and go. It could have been a six but that’s the game, that’s the nature of Twenty20 cricket again,” de Villiers said. “One inch further and it’s a six, that’s how it goes. He didn’t hit it in the middle – I think it comes down to execution. I think he knows he probably could have hit it better. That’s how it goes sometimes, you can’t blame one player. I thought we batted quite well for most of the night and unfortunately got out with that fifty-fifty chance going to hand and not over the boundary.”

Losing to Sri Lanka, ranked the No. 1 side in the format, need not be terminal for South Africa’s semi-final chances and they can take some encouragement from a narrow defeat. Dale Steyn recovered from his first over being hit for 17 to bowl with familiar precision and hostility on his return from injury, while de Kock and Duminy hinted at what the batting may be able to produce. Sri Lanka had raced out of the blocks thanks to Kusal Perera’s sparkling innings but de Villiers said Imran Tahir “turned the game around for us” with his 3 for 26.

De Villiers was also hopeful that Faf du Plessis would return to take charge of South Africa’s second game, against New Zealand on Monday.

Feb 212014
Wayne Parnell’s return puts Australia in trouble

Centuries by A B de Villiers and J P Duminy saw the hosts reach 423 in their first innings before two wickets apiece for Vernon Philander and the recalled Wayne Parnell left the tourists struggling at 112 for 4 at the close. 

With tormentor-in-chief Mitchell Johnson restricted to just one wicket on the first day, South Africa resumed on   214 for 5 but survived a barrage of short balls to take a stranglehold on the match. Fresh from making history by becoming the first batsman in Test history to score at least a half-century in 12 successive matches, De Villiers went on to compile a classy 116, while Duminy outscored him with a battling 123 from No 7, having failed to reach a half-century in his last eight innings.

Nathan Lyon finally ended Duminy’s 286-ball stay when DRS upheld an lbw verdict and the innings was wrapped up soon after when Morne Morkel ran himself out.

Despite their domination of England in the Ashes whitewash, question marks remain about the quality of Australia’s batting and the tourists lost their first three wickets for just 41 runs. Parnell announced his Test return after a two-year absence by taking the scalps of Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh in his first three balls. 

Morkel found some serious pace but had no luck, beating the edge several times and having David Warner dropped on 43 when the ball evaded De Villiers’ grasp. But Philander’s dismissal of Australia captain Michael Clarke gave South Africa a good chance of drawing level in the series, although Warner remained unbeaten on 65 at the close.

Feb 212014
Duminy, De Villiers, Parnell And Philander All Star As Proteas Take Second Day Honours
Friday 21 February 2014 

AB de Villiers celebrates

AB de Villiers was first to his century in Port Elizabeth…

JP Duminy raises his bat

…before JP Duminy followed suit.

South Africa celebrate a wicket

Vernon Philander (second from left) then dismissed Chris Rogers early in the Australian reply.

REUTERS/Rogan Ward. Picture Supplied by Action Images*3

South Africa 423 (Duminy 123, de Villiers 116) v
Australia 112-4 (Warner 65no, Parnell 2-19)
Second Test, Port Elizabeth, day two
Scorecard | Day One

South Africa ended the second day of the second Test against Australia well and truly back in the series after largely dominating the tourists with both bat and ball on a sluggish pitch.

The overnight pair of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy both completed hundreds and took their sixth-wicket stand to 149 and the Proteas to 423. Australia – David Warner apart with an unbeaten 65 off 67 balls – then struggled in reply and closed on 112 for four as Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell each struck twice.

It could have been even better for the hosts had they chosen to review a caught behind decision late in the day off night-watchman Nathan Lyon or had Duminy clung onto a catch in the gully in the final over. As it was, Lyon survived to reach stumps alongside Warner on 12, having earlier ended with marathon figures of five for 130 from 46 overs.

It was the South Africa seamers, as it had to be given their lack of a frontline spinner, who did the damage when Australia batted. Philander bounced back from his largely innocuous showing in Centurion by having Chris Rogers trapped LBW despite the left-hander calling for a review.

Alex Doolan then partnered Warner and took the score to 41, but Parnell struck twice in quick succession. He induced Doolan (8) to edge behind with his very first delivery and then had Centurion century-maker Shaun Marsh caught behind second ball to leave the tourists on 41 for three.

Warner, though, was counter-attacking at the other end and found support, for a while, from his captain Michael Clarke to add 40 during a breezy fourth-wicket stand. Clarke, though, became Philander’s second victim when he was caught by Dean Elgar for 19. Warner’s 11th Test half-century came off just 55 balls as he took his side through to stumps.

South Africa had earlier resumed in their first innings on 214 for five following a battling performance on day one. Runs were a little easier to come by today as Duminy and de Villiers survived the second new ball, which Australia took immediately, and batted throughout a slightly extended first session to add 109 runs.

De Villiers brought up Test ton number 19 off 201 balls shortly before the break, but would not add too many more as, with the score on 349, he chipped a return catch back to Lyon. Philander (6) and Parnell (10) both kept Duminy company for a time as he brought up his third Test century off 199 balls around an hour before tea. He would perish trying a reverse sweep off Lyon just before the break, with Morne Morkel last man out early in the final session.

Lyon’s fifth Test five-fer was the highlight of the day for Australia’s bowlers as the nature of the pitch largely negated their pace attack. Ryan Harris (27-6-63-1), Mitchell Johnson (25-5-70-1), Steve Smith (8-0-30-1) and Clarke (7.5-2-16-1) were the other wicket-takers.

© Cricket World 2014

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Feb 212014
Protea's bite back on dominant second day

Published: 6:06AM Saturday February 22, 2014 Source: AP

Wayne Parnell took two wickets in his first three balls in test cricket in four years to have Australia struggling at 112-4 in response to South Africa’s 423 today.

Playing his fourth test and first on his home ground, Parnell had Alex Doolan caught by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers with his first delivery and Shaun Marsh caught by De Villiers with his third to start a breathless final part of the second day of the second test.

That suddenly swung the match in South Africa’s favor after it made 423 on a St. George’s Park pitch that appeared to offer nothing for fast bowlers.

Parnell and Vernon Philander suggested otherwise, with Philander also removing Chris Rogers early and Australia captain Michael Clarke for 19 just before the close. David Warner was 65 not out and survived a dropped catch, as did nightwatchman Nathan Lyon as edges flew at the end of the day.

Australia was ultimately 311 runs behind with six wickets in hand at stumps and under pressure for the first time since the first session of the series at Centurion.

Lyon was sent in to see out the final few overs after Clarke mistimed a drive straight to the covers, and the spin bowler was subjected to a testing short-ball burst by Morne Morkel, the kind that Australia and left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson unleashed to dominate top-ranked South Africa in the first test.

At St. George’s Park, though, Johnson appeared to be bowling on a different pitch for the best part of two days as he and the rest of the tourists’ pace attack struggled to extract any pace, bounce or menace from an apparently slow and placid surface.

JP Duminy and De Villiers made centuries for the South Africans, and offspinner Lyon did much of the work for the Australians with his 5-130 after bowling 46 of their 150.5 overs. Johnson and the seamers didn’t take a wicket in more than 140 overs after their early two strikes on the first day, and he finished with 1-70 in the first innings.

Amid the South African quicks’ early breakthroughs in the late afternoon, opener Warner raced to his half-century off just 55 balls and hit 10 fours by the close as the top order failed around him. Lyon, hanging on grimly and bravely, was 12 not out, but they both came through close shaves.

On 43, Warner edged a rising ball from Morkel high to De Villiers and the keeper fumbled it. Lyon edged down the legside to De Villiers at 107-4 and was given not out. The South Africans didn’t review the decision, which showed a mark on Lyon’s bat. He then edged Morkel to Duminy at gully right at the end and another chance went down.

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