South Africa’s 62 run victory against Zimbabwe in its opening match of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup on Sunday apparently set off more alarms than the Proteas would have liked. For starters there was the failure of the top order as the South Africans slumped to 83/4. Then after a world record fifth wicket stand between David Miller and JP Duminy saw South Africa to 339/4, the Zimbabweans batted really well.
After good scores by Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor the men in red made their way to 214/3, needing a further 126 from 83 balls. Why did the Proteas top order fail? Why could the South African bowlers not clean up the Zimbabwe batting order? They were so good in the build-up to the tournament and now that the moment of truth has arrived, they are choking again. Yeah, those are just some of the things folks were saying in the aftermath. Perhaps we should consider a few pointers.
Firstly Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers are not perfect, no matter how badly their fans want them to be. There will be times when they too fall short.
Secondly, would you not rather that the likes of Miller and Duminy see some decent time in the middle during the tournament? Imagine Amla and De Villiers took the side to 350/2 every time and then suddenly in a knockout match the Proteas are 83/4 and Miller and Duminy have not had any time at the crease, or been in a pressure situation during the event yet.
Thirdly, other teams have good players too. The South Africans are not simply going to pitch up and roll people over, regardless of how weak the opposition are perceived to be.
Fourthly, most bowling sides are going to relax a little knowing they are defending 340 because the chances of winning from that position far outweigh those of losing, but mentally it is tough to gee yourself up to defend a score that in all honesty the opposition should not achieve.
Finally, would you really want South Africa to peak in its opening match of the tournament only to fall later on? Consider Australia in 1999. The Aussies were in dire straits at one point needing to win seven in a row if they were to lift the trophy. Now I am not suggesting Russell Domingo’s side should aim for such desperation, but the World Cup really is about peaking at the right time and the appropriate moment was not at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Sunday.