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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Temba Bavuma, toss, batting: Avoidable errors caused Proteas Cup fallout

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No one should doubt Temba Bavuma’s commitment to the Proteas cause, nor his ability as a batter and captain.

He has proven that he is a fine right-hander with the willow and leader of men.

That was the cornerstone of coach Rob Walter’s passionate defence of the skipper on arrival at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday night, after the Cricket Cup semi-final defeat to Australia on Thursday.

Walter was right to point out that if it wasn’t for Bavuma, SA may not have been in India at all.

Bavuma, meanwhile, agreed that his 145 runs in eight innings in the tournament wasn’t good enough.

So many things could have and should have been handled better – and differently.

The first issue was Bavuma’s hamstring dilemma. He admitted at the toss that he was not 100% fit, but as he correctly pointed out afterwards, many cricketers have played in games where they weren’t perfect on the physical front and still performed.

But as a batter and outstanding fielder, not being able to run at full tilt is a major problem.

Walter, as the coach, could have taken the responsibility out of Bavuma’s hands by making a call to rather leave him out.

The next questionable choice was to bat first after winning the toss, despite there being grey skies and rain around.

The Proteas had shown that they are a better posting team but you’ve got to assess the situation on the day, and it called for SA to bowl first – which is what Aussie skipper Pat Cummins did in the final to win the championship.

When the Proteas got to the crease, they went totally away from the strategy that has brought them much success in the last 12 months – which is seeing off the new ball and laying the foundation, before the middle-order hitters such as Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller can go big in the last 25 overs.

Instead, it was almost as if they used England’s ‘Bazball’ recipe, despite the fact that the ball was swinging and seaming around prodigiously.

Quinton de Kock played a horrible booming drive to a back-of-a-length Josh Hazlewood delivery that he skied high into the air to be out for 3, and SA were 8-2 in the sixth over.

Markram, after hitting a couple of classy boundaries on the leg-side, then opted to go for a big drive, slicing it to David Warner for 10. Rassie van der Dussen was on a watchful 6 off 30 balls when he also pushed hard away from his body to nick Hazlewood to Steve Smith at second slip.

Suddenly it’s game over at 24-4 in 11.5 overs …

Klaasen was looking good on a run-a-ball 47 before he missed a straight one from Travis Head, which really ended any chance of South Africa posting a truly competitive total. David Miller’s majestic hundred gave the Proteas a sniff at defending 212, but again, there were confusing decisions made on the bowling front.

Head and the other spinners were turning it square, but SA chose to send youngster Marco Jansen into the lion’s den again in the opening over, when a spinner – ideally Markram – would have been the more attacking option.

Kagiso Rabada bowled from the other end, but Australia smashed 60 runs off the first six overs to blow the Proteas away.

Just to underline the SA mistake, Markram clean-bowled Warner with his first ball of the seventh over …

The world’s No 1 ODI bowler, Keshav Maharaj, was only introduced in the 14th over with Australia on 106-2. And just like Markram, Maharaj claimed a wicket with a terrific first delivery, bowling Head through his gate for 62.

Imagine if Maharaj had opened the bowling?

Bavuma and Walter, as expected, are choosing to focus on the positives of the Cup campaign. But the fact is that it’s another semi-final defeat when a different outcome was entirely possible.

And that kind of hope is what hurts Proteas fans the most – the fact that the team had a real chance to reach the final, considering all the heartache and pain of previous tournaments.

Now it’s another four long years until the 2027 Cup in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia…

@ashfakmohamed

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