Mar 162014
No secret to ending choke jokes for SA
Imran Tahir picked up two wickets in an economical spell, South Africa v Australia, 3rd T20, Centurion, March 14, 2014

Strike bowler: Faf du Plessis wants Imran Tahir to only concern himself with taking wickets © AFP

After 22 years, six World Cups, four World T20s and an uncountable number of jokes about the choke, South Africa have stopped searching for an elixir. They have decided the way to approach major tournaments is with the best team they can muster and an understanding of the basic principles of winning and losing.

“There’s nothing magical that you can do to win a World Cup,” Faf du Plessis said at the team’s arrival in Bangladesh. “It’s a tournament where you need guys in form and if you have that, you give yourselves a great opportunity to compete. If you can play good cricket during the build up and get to the semis, once you are there, it’s just about playing the game. There is nothing different about it. If you don’t play to your full potential you are going to get beaten.”


Or not.

For a start South Africa have not played enough T20 cricket to know who is in form and who is not. Only one match in their three-game series against Australia took place in full. Another was washed out and a third condensed to a seven-over shootout. “I would have liked to have played some more T20 cricket,” du Plessis admitted. Chances are, apart from West Indies and England, every other team feels the same way.

What South Africa do have is a relatively recent strong record on the subcontinent. Last August they beat Sri Lanka in a T20 series on the island and last November they were victorious over Pakistan in the UAE. Both teams had players with the kind of magic fingers that du Plessis thinks will decide this tournament: spinners. That South Africa were successful is a tick in the form column for du Plessis. “We’ve proven that we can play in these conditions against quality spin,” he said. “This tournament is going to be won and lost with spinners.”

What South Africa do not have is a reputation for being blessed with exactly that: spinners. But stereotypes date and South African cupboard has started to fill-up in that department. They have three spinners in their squad this time, each offering something different.

The legspinner, Imran Tahir, is the player du Plessis thinks will make the biggest impact and the captain has given him a licence to kill. “He is a guy who takes wickets. It’s not required of him to go at two, three or four runs an over. He gets wickets,” he said. “Also, we’ve got JP Duminy who has been bowling very well as a back-up spinner.”

Duminy’s part-time offspin is fast becoming not so part-time and he has proved an important partnership breaker in the last few months. Left-armer Aaron Phangiso did not get a mention from du Plessis but he is also in the squad, giving South Africa the kind of options teams want when they head into a competition.

Having a slew of spinners alone is not going to win anyone anything, so du Plessis was quick to point out South Africa also have all the other departments covered. “When it comes to Bangladesh, it’s not always just spin. The conditions allow for fast bowling as well and we’ve got a really good bowling attack when it comes to the fast bowlers.

“In our whole batting line-up, we’ve got destructive hitters. AB de Villiers has proven so many times how destructive he can be. So has David Miller. And then other guys, like Hashim Amla he goes under the radar but he is a high quality batsman. We’ve got a long batting line-up.”

South Africa have got “ourselves covered,” just as they have had in the past. The only thing missing is the amnesia to forget the dreaded c-word that keeps popping up and will pop up throughout South Africa’s stay at in the tournament and be brought out no matter how far they get.

Du Plessis says they do not need it. He may be right given how captains of the past of dealt with it. Graeme Smith turned it into an expletive of sorts, bristling every time the first syllable was mentioned and glaring so hard at the utterer the person was likely to choke before the whole word came out. That did not work. De Villiers tried reverse psychology with it by embracing the word and saying it as many times in one sentence as he could. That also did not work.

So du Plessis is treating it like any other word. The same as win, lose, champions and losers. All of them are loaded with connotations but du Plessis wants to see only the logic hidden underneath. “You can look at it any way you want but for me, we need to be playing our best cricket. If we arrive on the day and we don’t we should get beaten and that goes for every team,” he said.

“When it comes to choking, for me it’s simple. You need to make sure you give yourself the best opportunity to do well and if you don’t and you get beaten on the day, as long as the other team played better cricket, I can accept that.” If that happens, he’ll hope the rest of South Africa can too.

Dec 112013
South Africa reach 301 through de Villiers, de Kock

South Africa chose to bat v India
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Imran Tahir and AB de Villiers are elated after Umar Akmal's dismissal, Pakistan v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Abu Dhabi, November 6, 2013

Imran Tahir made a comeback for South Africa © AFP

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Despite torrential rain a day before the match, SuperSport Park was ready for the toss on scheduled time, which South Africa won for the first time in the series. The outcome was the same: South Africa chose to bat, hoping to put up a big total and putting the Indian batting under pressure. The pitch didn’t look too green, but there was bound to be some moisture underneath.

However, South Africa rested three of their big players with Tests in mind: Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis. It gave the visitors their best chance to gain some confidence and runs going into the Test series. Wayne Parnell, Imran Tahir and Henry Davids were the replacements.

India chose to stick with the same bowling combination, which they thought did well in restricting South Africa to 280 in Durban. They did make one change to the XI, though: Yuvraj Singh came back from his back spasm, and replaced Ajinkya Rahane.

South Africa 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Henry Davids, 4 AB de Villiers (capt.), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11 Imran Tahir

India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Mohammed Shami

Nov 302013
Philander and De Villiers star in Proteas win

Three Vernon Philander wickets and an unbeaten 48 by captain AB de Villiers allowed South Africa to restore some pride by completing a four-wicket victory over Pakistan in the final one-day international at Centurion.

Pakistan had already claimed the ODI series by winning the first two matches but they were all out for 179 – with Misbah-ul-Haq once again in the familiar position of playing a superb lone hand.

Once again Pakistan captain Misbah ul-Haq proved to be the ideal man in a crisis but his 79 not out could not inspire a whitewash

The tourists’ captain made light of wickets clattering around him to score a wonderfully paced 79 not out from 107 deliveries, meaning Pakistan used all but 3.1 overs of their allocation having slumped to 97 for seven in the 29th.

At that stage Misbah found a useful ally in Abdur Rehman, who scored 22 in a stand of 51 for the ninth wicket.

Philander took 3-26 off 10 overs with two apiece for Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Ryan McLaren and Imran Tahir.

In their innings, Hashim Amla gave the Proteas momentum with 41 off 48 deliveries but Pakistan remained in the hunt, especially when Rehman drew an edge behind from JP Duminy to leave the hosts tottering slightly on 84 for four.

De Villiers remained unruffled and compiled stands with David Miller and McLaren, who largely restricted their naturally attacking tendencies to make 24 and 17 respectively.

Both sides rotated their line-ups significantly, with the likes of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Shahid Afridi allowed to remain on the sidelines. 

Oct 232013
Tahir sends Pakistan crashing to 99

Toss Pakistan chose to bat v South Africa
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Imran Tahir appeals for a wicket, Australia A v South Africans, Sydney, 1st day, November 2, 2012

It will be Imran Tahir’s first Test against his country of birth © Getty Images

Pakistan won the crucial toss against South Africa and chose to bat on a pitch that has signs of deteriorating later. They chose to stick to the same XI that won the first Test in Abu Dhabi.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith said at the toss that he would have batted first as well, but he was now looking to make some impact with the new ball. They had a couple of changes to their team though; Hashim Amla, who has flown back home for the birth of his child, was replaced by Dean Elgar and Robin Peterson made way for legspinner Imran Tahir, who played his last Test 11 months ago, in Adelaide.

There were question marks on the fitness of Dale Steyn on the eve of the match but the bowler was available to play.

Pakistan: 1 Shan Masood, 2 Khurram Manzoor, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Zulfiqar Babar, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammad Irfan

South Africa: 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Dean Elgar, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 JP Duminy, 7 Faf du Plessis, 8 Imran Tahir, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel

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