SOUTH AFRICA TOUR IN ENGLAND, 2022
England came back from 72-5 at post 201 which proved more than enough to topple the visitors ©AFP
How do you feel about winning a match at 29 overs-a-side? It’s not easily recognizable as an ODI, and it broke the banks of a T20I. It’s not a sprint but not a walk either. It’s neither breakfast nor lunch, but neither is brunch. It’s in-between and in-between, both bigger and smaller – and too big and not big enough – than what is considered a real game of cricket.
Cricket, for some, is a matter of habit; to do things in a particular way for no other reason than the fact that they have always been done that way. Those close to his heart try to explain their sad obsession with nostalgia by relying on tradition. Others of their ilk abhor change. Still others fear it.
Fluidity is not for them. They crave certainty, conservatism and cable knitwear. What could those sorry souls have made of Friday’s second ODI between England and South Africa at Old Trafford, where rain reduced the overs in each innings to the unmagical 29 overs? Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Was it the kind of weirdness that would make them change the channel? Boules, snooker, darts, golf, Abba concert replays, even the dreaded news. Anything.
If they clicked, it was their loss. They missed a good game made better by enough players looking unsure how to play it, keeping things edgy and interesting throughout.
England are regularly called masters of innovation, but they lacked imagination and were beaten for the fifth time in a row in white ball matches with Dwaine Pretorius surgically precise and full of ideas to take a career-best 4/36 – three of them for nine runs in his first 10 deliveries.
Even so, Sam Curran’s direct six on Tabraiz Shamsi followed by Liam Livingstone launching the next three deliveries, knocked down by Anrich Nortje, beyond the side’s bounds for a hat-trick of maximums – all in the throes of a stand of 21 balls from 43 – kept the home side in the contest and helped take the total to 201: a touch under seven points over.
England had recovered decently after falling to 72/5. So there was a touch of math poetry in South Africa crashing to 27/5 in less than nine rounds of their answer. They had lost Janneman Malan, Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram – who went off without facing a ball – with the score locked at six.
Perhaps the English left arm trident of Reece Topley, David Willey and Curran had made the visitors heads. Maybe they also didn’t know how to pace a round over 29, despite being able to focus on a target.
How’s that for a theory? “All of our players are very experienced, and I don’t think it’s a difficult situation to sum up,” Pretorius told a press conference. “We’ve played very smart and brave cricket over the past few games, but all of our options when we wanted to take a risk didn’t materialize. England, whenever they took a risk, sometimes they succeeded. Cricket is an interesting game, if you don’t play, you don’t seem to know what’s going on.
Heinrich Klaasen knew what was going on. When South Africa were 39/5 after 10 overs, you couldn’t blame them for getting creative in an effort to slow the game down. Another 10 overs would have to be thrown to constitute a match. The rain that had delayed the start of proceedings from 15 minutes to less than three hours had returned – not enough to stop play, but regularly enough to prompt field staff to clear part of the right boundary of the billboards. This created a path for the blankets to be moved across the floor as quickly as possible, if they were needed.
But removing the boards also put the covers in the batter’s eyeline. The aiming screen was, of course, black. The blankets were white. Klaasen was therefore within his rights to claim that he would lose sight of the cue ball when it reached the level of the covers near the ground, which he did. The England players, no doubt feeling the drizzle on their skin, were reaching apoplectic levels of annoyance with the delay by the time ground staff took notice and put the advertising boards back in place.
But the rain didn’t stop the game, and it was clear that it would take more than smarts to engineer a victory for the South Africans. They could only put together two double-digit partnerships, both with Klaasen, who hit a 33 before advancing downfield to Moeen Ali and was easily stumped – reducing his side to a 6/ 66 biblically disturbing in the 15th . Then Adil Rashid stifled the innings and the game with bowling that was far too good for Pretorius – on the night – and Lungi Ngidi and Nortje to claim 3/29.
Three days after South Africa went 333/5 in the series opener at Durham, their highest tally in their 55 ODIs in England, they have climbed to 83 all out – equaling their tally lowest in England and is their third lowest overall. They were dismissed in 132 of their 643 ODIs, but never as few as the 124 deliveries it took to knock them out on Friday.
“Teams are allowed to play well, and England played well; they definitely outplayed us,” Pretorius said, knowing South Africa will have the chance to reverse those roles when the series ends at Headingley. sunday. Safe for now, at least.