Wednesday, 09 December 2015

Was the India tour a triumph or disaster?

A crushing 3–0 loss against India in the recent Test series would have left many South African cricket fans distraught, shaking their heads at how such a powerful batting line up had been easily brought to its knees. It would be very easy to forget that the Proteas won the T20 series 2–0 and the One Day International series 3–2 just weeks before.

One thing is certain: The 72-day tour was highly competitive, with both SA and India being hurt by the other side on several occasions. While the shorter format matches were closely contested, the Test series was one-sided. Batsmen scored freely, as the T20 and ODI series turned into a run contest between AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis for SA against Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli for India. The Test series dissolved into one-way traffic – South African batsmen toiling, struggling to survive as long as they could against lethal Indian spinners on pitches with nightmarish turn and bounce.

Proteas Test captain Hashim Amla will feel the heat after our Test series defeat to India.

But was the tour a victory or failure? I argue that it was both.

Before the tour, South Africa had not lost an overseas Test series since 2006. In this regard, the Test series loss was definitely a failure, especially as we fell so hard. Man of the series Ravichandran Ashwin was unplayable. The Indian spinner tore our batting line up apart with his intelligent bowling, and use of variety. Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra supported him well, ensuring that our batsmen had no room to breathe. The series showed that South African batsmen still do not know how to play great spinners on turning wickets. Our batsmen were bamboozled.

Having said this, the Test series did highlight a weak point for us. The Proteas coaching staff must identify it and correct it. India had not played a Test series at home in two years, so perhaps it was an honour to be selected to compete with them, whatever the result. Furthermore, how often does a team go to India and win two series? India is very strong at home, and several cricket captains such as Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith have alluded to this. Winning any series there is an accomplishment. Thus I feel that we also succeeded in India. Our T20 and ODI series wins showed the world that we have what it takes to also be successful in the limited overs format.

At the end of the day SA won five matches, and India won five matches. Both sides would have wanted more wins.

Monday, 26 October 2015

SA are unstoppable

I previously blogged how India would beat the Proteas in the T20 series, and the One Day International (ODI) series could go either way between the sides. I never expected SA to win both series convincingly (2–0, and 3–2 respectively). Who would have thought? India, the giants of limited overs cricket, and South Africa – while incredibly strong, are too often inconsistent. It was an awesome surprise. The ODI series win was our first in India.

Faf du Plessis is on fire. Photo from NT44NZblog photo from

With the phenomenal form South Africa is in, it must be hard being an Indian player with the prospect of a four-match Test series on the horizon, especially after losing two series at home, and as South Africa is ranked first in the world in Tests. Yes, JP Duminy, Morne Morkel and Rilee Rossouw were recently injured, but South Africa pulled together as a team and performed remarkably in all aspects of the game. Fielding was good, bowling was excellent, and batting was... Batting was out of this world.

Quinton de Kock clearly likes batting in India. He scored two centuries in the series, and out of his eight ODI centuries, five were against India. Faf du Plessis showed incredible consistency in his batting, and AB is on another level in limited overs cricket. Perhaps Chris Gayle is as destructive, but even he does not obliterate bowling attacks as often as AB does.

Dale Steyn is still striking, and now Kagiso Rabada is chipping in big time. In fact, Rabada has shown confidence and big-match temperament beyond his years. Steyn and Rabada each took 10 wickets in the ODI series. So much for spin dominating in India.

On the whole, South Africa are looking as good as I have ever seen them in limited overs. Who can stop us now? Let me know what you think.

Monday, 12 October 2015

It's not looking good for India

After a one-sided T20 series marred by unruly fans, and a scorcher of a first One Day International, India have it all to do in the remainder of the lengthly South Africa tour of India. The 72-day tour saw the Proteas win the three-match T20 series 2–0, which included a play disruption in the second match because fans felt unhappy about India's poor performance and threw water bottles onto the field. The third T20 was rained out. South Africa clinched the first of five ODIs by five runs on 11 October. It was a nail-biting affair, with South Africa posting 303 and the match going to the final ball. A four-match Test series is still to come.

India captain MS Dhoni will feel the expectations of a nation on his shoulders, as India struggle
against South Africa. Photo from

Three wins on the trot for South Africa places the momentum with them, and leaves us in no doubt as to what the state of morale is in the two camps. I certainly did not expect South Africa to win the T20 series, and especially not 2–0. Furthermore, India were batting very well in the ODI, with Rohit Sharma slamming 150 runs. It looked like we were going to lose. But credit to our bowlers. Staring down the face of the barrel, we did not change our tactics. We stuck to our game plan, even to the final over, and it paid off. Two wickets in an over for both Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada (in the final over) showed that we have big-match-temperament.

I have to say, it was beautiful watching Rabada bowl so well against high-profile batsmen. For a 20-year-old bowling the final over against MS Dhoni, when India only needed 11 runs to win, must have been nerve-wracking. But Rabada held his line and length and did not step over the line. Instead, he snatched the wickets of Dhoni and Stuart binny, and only gave away five runs. Incredible. AB de Villiers was awarded the man of the match for his 104 runs off 73 balls. I feel Sharma deserved the award though.

The phenomenal innings by Sharma aside, India are not in good form, neither with bat nor ball. India's star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's injury will strike a blow in the hearts of Team India, and with the Indian fans openly expressing their dissatisfaction in the team's performances, it probably does not feel good being an Indian cricketer at the moment.

The second ODI will be played on 14 October.

Monday, 28 September 2015

A giant cricketing clash

India will soon host South Africa for a cricketing tour that will last a lengthy 72 days, including three T20s, five One Day Internationals and four Test Matches. The extensive contest between two of the world's top teams will be one of the most exciting of the season. The tour starts on 2 October with the T20 series.

According to ICC rankings, in T20s India is fourth in the world and South Africa is sixth. In ODIs, India is second and SA is third. In Tests, SA is first, and India is fifth. Therefore, across all formats SA has an average ranking of 3.33 and India averages 3.67. Both teams are very strong. The tour should be a close affair.

While India is very strong in its batting, with the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni, it is weaker in the bowling department, with Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar the only bowlers we should worry about.

AB de Villiers is the highest-ranked ODI batsman while Virat Kohli is the highest ranked T20 batsman. photo from

South Africa is good in both departments, as I have mentioned before. AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla will have a point to prove, being two of the best batsmen in the world (AB is the best in my mind, at number one in ODIs and two in Tests). Dale Steyn will again come firing, while Vernon Philander will look to make a strong comeback in his performances.

But playing in India is never easy. We have lost many series there, and again India will come at us hard, with belief that they can win. I think that India will win the T20 series. We should pip India in the Test series, but the ODI series could go either way.

Wednesday, 09 September 2015

Graeme Smith completes his career

Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith has been announced as an ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The foundation uplifts communities by supporting 150 community sports projects in 35 countries. This is a far cry from the brazen 'I do not care what you think' and slightly rude attitude of the then 22-year-old who became South Africa's cricket captain in 2002. But Smith has undergone a textbook evolution in his sporting career.

Starting out as a rather arrogant but talented young batsman who always took on the world's best bowlers without respect, and who never shied from a verbal argument, Smith has finally completed the final task of any sporting icon after retirement – giving back. 

Graeme Smith's cricketing career has reached its end. CC Search image.
Just as former Proteas wicket keeper Mark Boucher now supports initiatives that prevent rhino poaching, and former Springboks captain Francois Pienaar founded the MAD Charity to support learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, Smith is getting involved in charity. Some former sports players take up commentary or writing after they retire, (by the way, Smith has already authored Graeme Smith: A Captain's Diary, which is an inspiring read), but the true sign of a career's end is something given back to society.

While Smith has overseen a few charity programmes since his retirement, and is now an employee of financial services company Momentum, this announcement marks the start of the completion of a spectacular sporting career. Now, Smith will appear in the media as an icon bringing attention to important causes and raising awareness about matters of significance. Just like every other individual who started out with a unique, albeit arrogant and selfish, attitude, the sporting system has ensured that the outcome is a well-mannered, caring, philanthropic icon.

Graeme Smith's cricketing statistics, courtesy of ESPN cricinfo

Batting and fielding averages
List A25925315933114139.2014671370
Bowling averages
List A25919681796473/303/3038.215.4741.8000

Friday, 07 August 2015

Bangladesh – If it had not rained

Who would have won? If both Test matches between South Africa and Bangladesh were not washed out in their recent series, what would the result be?

The first match was subject to heavy, persistent rain and its final two days were rained out. If that was bad, only 88.1 overs were played in the second Test. Before this, the Proteas won the T20 series 2–0, while the Tigers won the ODI series 2–1. Yet I think South Africa would have won the Test series. Here is why:

Faf du Plessis probably would have liked to know how the Test series could have turned out.
Image from

While the momentum was with Bangladesh, South Africa's Test team has learned how to make remarkeable comebacks. Yes, AB de Villiers was missing, while his wife was giving birth to his son (also named AB), but captain Hashim Amla has potential to inspire his team to success. A fiercely determined batsman, whilst very respectful and experienced, he would have led the team – particularly the batsmen – to perform well. Likewise, Dale Steyn would have led the bowling attack with ferocity, after taking his 400th Test wicket.

Yes Bangladesh have great quality in batting and bowling at the moment, but they would not have beaten South Africa over 10 days. South Africa are far more experienced in Test cricket. The tables would have turned on the home side eventually.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A surprise in the jungle

A ferocious monster now lurks in the dense jungles of Bangladesh, as Pakistanis, Indians and now South Africans can attest to. For decades, the beast that prowled the small Asian country, was too small to catch substantial prey. Its teeth were blunt and its fangs too short. But sometime in the last three months, this creature underwent a metamorphosis, changing into something far scarier.

Photo from

This beast has developed a greater appetite, as well as the means with which to catch and kill larger prey. Soon this new appetite will force the creature to go hunting overseas.

I am talking, of course, of an awakening in the Bangladesh cricket team. ODI series victories against Pakistan, India and South Africa are demonstrative of an ascension in the Tigers. Not only has the arrival of wonder-kids Mustafizur Rahman (in bowling) and Soumya Sarkar (in batting) bolstered the team, but every other player seems to be playing twice as well as he did before. The result is impressive.

No longer will Bangladesh be seen as the underdogs, or the easy win. International teams will have to completely rethink how they plan to beat the Tigers.

I will conclude with three questions:

- How long will this show of form last?
- Couldn't the Tigers have improved before the World Cup in February and March?
- Will they pick themselves up after an inevitable setback in the future?

Fans of the Tigers have much to celebrate at the moment. Photo from

Friday, 24 April 2015

South Africans shine for Delhi

South African cricket players, and coach Gary Kirsten, are at the forefront of a Delhi Daredevils revival. The Indian Premiere League (IPL) team is currently fourth out of eight on the log in this year's tournament, as of 24 April. They have three wins and three losses, but seem to be improving from last season's dismal display. This is largely in thanks to JP Duminy, Proteas player, and Delhi captain.

Duminy has batted well thus far, scoring 207 runs at an average of 51.75 and strike rate of 129. He has scored two half-centuries. Duminy has also taken seven wickets with the ball at an average of 10.28 and economy of eight. Duminy seems to inspire his players to perform, and his great fielding helps in that regard.

JP Duminy captains Delhi Daredevils. Photo taken from
Imran Tahir is also the leading wicket taker in this IPL. He has 13 wickets at an average of 14.23 and economy of 7.7. Tahir is attacking the batsmen's wickets and reaping the reward. A few full and wide balls of his have been punished, but his accuracy has been excellent lately. With Indian spinner Amit Mishra also in the team not doing nearly as well as Tahir (six wickets at 25.83), it highlights the form Tahir finds himself in.

Of course, Gary Kirsten must be doing something right to rally the team from two initial losses to three wins in the next four games. Kirsten's work with the national Indian team in their 2011 world cup win was highly praised, and his period with the Proteas also saw us attain and hold the number one Test spot. It is safe to say that his strategies and approach benefit the Delhi team.

Albie Morkel has only played one match for Delhi so far. But his 73 not out off 55 balls came as a beautiful surprise to me. It was a momento of the player he used to be, and, maybe could be again. Quinton de Kock has not yet played for Delhi this season.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

It is hard being a Proteas fan

The first thing a colleague said to me after the Proteas lost in the semi final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to New Zealand, was, "There they choke again. They are chokers." It is an opinion held by many South African cricket fans, and the issue is addressed by the Proteas players and staff themselves. The Proteas have never progressed past the semi final stage at a world cup, and are perceived to play below par in must-win world cup matches.

Proteas ODI Captain AB de Villiers will be distraught after losing in the world cup semi final to New Zealand.

Thus it is exasperating being a Proteas fan. Every time a world cup comes round, and even a T20 world cup, we all get excited that maybe this could be our time. Without fail, we are disappointed. Am I saying that the Proteas' chokers label is accurate? I do not know. All I can say is that, although New Zealand have a very skillful and hard working team this time round, we batted and bowled very well but our fielding in the last overs almost certainly cost us the match.

Du Plessis had called for a catch he could not reach, even when Hashim Amla was ready nearby. The ball landed between them. Then, Farhaan Behardien was poised for a catch when JP Duminy came out of nowhere and dived into him. It appeared that Behardien had already dropped the ball before Duminy arrived, but when a player is approaching like that it can distract you as a fielder. 

It was New Zealand who also ended our world cup dreams in 2011. For them, this is an opportunity to be rugby and cricket world champions at the same time. What a dream come true. With regards to the Proteas, foolish fans such as myself will have to wait another four years. We will wait, as time builds up our hope again.

Friday, 27 February 2015

AB – Nobody is better

There is no better batsman in the world right now than AB de Villiers. The guy is pure genius. His 162 not out off 66 balls demoralised the West Indies team on 27 February, allowing the Proteas to crush them by 257 runs in their World Cup group match. His innings included the world's fasted One Day International 150, and second fasted World Cup 100. What a privilege to have him in South Africa's team, and even better to have him as our ODI captain. 

AB de Villiers is without doubt the best batsman in the world.

As good as Hashim Amla and Virat Kohli are as batsmen (they are ranked second and third in the world in ODIs according to the ICC), they cannot contend with the brilliance of AB. His innings are characterised by indomitable determination, unbeatable (although uncanny) technique, and innovative stroke play. Furthermore, AB is probably the best fielder in the world. He is lightning quick and has enacted many run outs and great catches. 

I am glad that Quinton de Kock is currently our wicketkeeper. Not just because AB can captain without trying to keep wickets at the same time, but also so AB can be in the field. 2015 has been an incredible year for AB, with him also scoring the fastest ODI 100 of all time (off 31 balls). His statistics are actually improving, despite his age of  31 years. In conclusion, AB is the best batsman in the world and has done SA proud. If he cannot lead us to our first World Cup trophy, who can?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

SA on course in the World Cup

The Proteas are on course to do well in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. We may have only played one match so far, but the way we performed bodes well. We beat Zimbabwe by 62 runs on 15 February. It was through brilliant centuries by David Miller (138 off 92 balls not out) and JP Duminy (115 off 100 not out), an excellent bowling performance by Imran Tahir (three wickets for 36 runs) and fielding by AB de Villiers (three catches and a run out).

David Miller scored 138 not out to help the Proteas to a win against Zimbabwe. Photo taken from
We scored 339–4 in our 50 overs and Zimbabwe did well to reach 277 all out. It was a tough game, but a good one because we were tested in all departments and passed with flying colours. When batting, we lost wickets early, but recovered to set a great score. When bowling, we were made to work hard for our wickets and were disciplined (although we gave 22 extras). The Zimbabweans had to work for their runs. Then in the field, our only dropped catches went down because they were incredibly difficult ones to take. AB de Villiers took one of the best catches I have seen to dismiss Solomon Mire.

Our next match will be played against India on 22 February. India recently beat Pakistan by 76 runs and their morale will be very high. They are a great team and will be very difficult to beat. Then we will play the West Indies on 27 February. The Windies recently lost to Ireland by four wickets, and their morale will be low. However, they will be determined to progress through the group stage, and will play hard against us.

Monday, 09 February 2015

Do our bowlers have what it takes?

In my last blog I said that the Proteas' bowling attack is its problem in One Day Internationals (ODIs). If South Africa are to do well in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, I believe that our bowling will need to be much better than it has been in recent months. In Tests we are great, but in ODIs our bowling is mediocre. Our death bowling is especially poor, with bowlers carelessly giving runs away in the final overs of an innings. We bowl too wide, too many half volleys, and not enough yorkers.

Morne Morkel is not the bowler he used to be. Photo from
Imran Tahir is not the world's best spinner. But I like him. He is always trying to take a wicket, and his passion is contagious. Our backup spinner, Aaron Phangiso, has his moments but is usually average. With the hard pitches in Australia and New Zealand, it would have been better to leave him out the squad and let JP Duminy play the role of backup spinner.

Our biggest problem is the fast bowling department. Dale Steyn is always difficult to score off, with pace, away swing and reverse swing. Vernon Philander is accurate and moves the ball well. These two do not bowl many yorkers but they take wickets and keep the runs down. The rest, not so much. Morne Morkel began his career as a positive, tall fast bowler with lots of potential. He was good at first. Now he gives lots of runs away and takes few wickets.

I thought that Kyle Abbott would be better in the international ring, but he has been very expensive. Wayne Parnell is not a good all-rounder. He does not bowl well and he does not bat well. Between him and Morne Morkel, I do not know who bowls more wides and gives more runs away.

To answer the question this blog post is headlined, I think that our bowling will have to improve for us to have a chance at taking this year's World Cup. In fact, they will have to be about 40 per cent better than they currently are.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Proteas and the World Cup

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 is so close now (it starts on 14 February) it is impossible not to get excited. Every time the World Cup comes around, we as South Africans ask ourselves the same old questions: How will we do this time? Will the Proteas choke again? The Proteas have an average record in World Cups, reaching three semi-finals in seven tournaments. Our best finishing place was third, and our worst was eighth. For a team that has usually been ranked in the top four in the world, we perhaps have not done well enough in the World Cup.

Every four years we wonder if this will be the occasion when our players will show the world how good they are, and go all the way. But to win the World Cup is not easy. A team has to have performed consistently (for about a month and a half) with the bat, the ball and in the field. Proteas Coach Russell Domingo recently said in an interview that he hopes South Africa will do better at the end of the tournament. This is where we have failed in the past, with so many bad semi and quarter-final performances.

Proteas One Day International Captain AB de Villiers will want his team to go far in the World Cup.

But we are ranked third in the world in One Day Internationals at the moment. We also have AB de Villiers in first place as ODI batsman in the world, Hashim Amla in third and (a surprise to me when I saw) Quinton de Kock in seventh place. Recent centuries by Rilee Rossouw and David Miller, and the class we know that JP Duminy has, we can be happy with our batting. 

Of course our fielding is very good at the moment. Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Rilee Rossouw, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy are very quick on the ball, and make batsman pause before trying to sneak a single.

Our bowling department is the problem. I would like to go into this at more depth another time, but although Dale Steyn is third in the world, and Morne Morkel in ninth (somehow!), our bowling has been bad lately. In my opinion Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are our only good seam bowlers. Imran Tahir is an on-and-off spinner, but usually reliable. The rest are mediocre. 

Having said that, I can barely wait for the World Cup to start, and for the Proteas to throw that monkey off their shoulders.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Australia to win the World Cup

I think that the team with the most chance to win the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 is Australia. Many fans will point to the the class in the Indian batting lineup. Especially as the team won the last World Cup. In response I will highlight their bowling attack. Many will point to South Africa's recent success against the West Indies. I will highlight our past failures at the World Cup and a lack of consistency in One Day Internationals in recent years. 

Australia will be playing at home, and the talent and experience in their squad will make them strong favourites.
Mitchell Starc is an excellent bowler in the Australian team. Photo from

The pitches in Australia and New Zealand favour fast bowlers and attacking batsmen. Australia has exactly that. Mitchell Starc has burst onto the scene as a deadly fast bowler. The 24-year-old has already taken 59 ODI wickets at an average of 20.11 and economy of 4.97. Pat Cummins is another young bowler with very fast pace and skill, and James Faulkner is a great death bowler. 

The batsmen in the team should be of even more concern to opposition teams. Aaron Finch and David Warner are a deadly opening combination. Both are aggressive, and if either stays in for more than 30 overs, the team will probably set a total of 300+. If Michael Clarke (33) recovers from his injury he will be the most experienced player in the team. He has scored 7 762 ODI runs at an average of 44.86. George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell can provide great end-of-innings smashing, while Brad Haddin brings much experience.

As of 23 January Australia is ranked fourth in the world in ODIs, according to the International Cricket Council rankings. England is first, South Africa is second and India is third. Australia have also won the World Cup the most number of times, which is four times.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Tide turns against the Caribbean

I blogged in December that South Africa would beat the West Indies in their Test series, but the Caribbean side would win the T20 International series. I was correct. I also said that the One Day International series could go either way. I've changed my mind.

The return of AB de Villiers and other key players will likely help the Proteas win the current ODI series against the West Indies.

When the Proteas won the Test series 2–0 it was no surprise, although the West Indies pushed us hard in the second Test. Losing the T20I International series 2–1 was expected. But the Proteas showed determination to make our highest T20I score (231) in the second match, and put in a good all-round performance in the third match to win back some pride. After our victory in the third T20I, I think that momentum has shifted towards us, and with the return of some of our best cricketers, I am 70% certain we will win the ODI series.

AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy and Vernon Philander come back to the playing 11. This will bolster the Proteas, while I think the West Indies squad will be pretty tired after a long tour. The five ODIs will be played in a short space of time (16, 18, 21, 25 and 28 January). This will demand a lot from the players.

With the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to start in less than one month, both sides will see this series as preparation, and want to make sure they know what their strengths and weaknesses are. A win would also boost their confidence. But I think SA will take it. We are better rested and have our best players back.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Alviro – A player of the past

Alviro Petersen (34) recently announced his decision to retire from international cricket. This will come into effect from 01 April. The Proteas opening batsman made his Test match debut for South Africa in February 2010, in India. He scored 100 in his first innings.

Alviro Petersen did the right thing by retiring from international cricket now. Photo taken from
For me, Petersen joined the national side when we were struggling to find good opening batsmen. He did well. His respectable performances seemed like an answer to our need. Establishing himself as a reliable Test opener, he attacked from early on in his innings, slowed down later, and often finished on a good score.

But as with every cricketer, as the years went on he struggled more and more to turn out the good performances we saw from him in the past. The inevitable effect of time influenced his career, and his batting average dropped to less than 40. Then it dropped to the mid thirties, where it will probably stay forever.

Do not misunderstand me. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Alviro Petersen open the batting for South Africa. He displayed great technique and played with confidence. He also played very well for the bizhub Highveld Lions, the domestic cricket team in Johannesburg. I will miss Petersen. But it is time for him to go.

Even the greats Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar had to retire when they could not go on. It is part of life. The spirit may endure but the body and mind will eventually fail. Farewell Alviro Peterson and thanks for five years of good cricket.

Below are Alviro Petersen's statistics as of 12 January 2015:

Batting and fielding averages
List A168161115083145*33.88731640
Bowling averages
List A16839436182/482/4845.125.4949.2000