Proteas look all at sea

South Africa seemed to give up dur­ing thump­ing by Eng­land in first T20 clash

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA

SOUTH African cricket finds it­self in this weird place, as plans off the field come to fruition, but the play­ing side of things look­ing in­creas­ingly off-colour.

The sting­ing de­feat in the open­ing T20 In­ter­na­tional against Eng­land raised yet more eye­brows, and the feel­ing that some­thing more than a loss of form is at play grows by the day.

If it were a football club, ru­mours would be rife that they were play­ing for the man­ager to get the sack.

Of course, the noises from within all main­tain that ev­ery­one gets along with ev­ery­one, and the goal is now 2019.

It’s only two Bri­tish sum­mers away, but it’s never looked fur­ther away for some play­ers than it has of late.

South Africa trudged to 143/3 on Wed­nes­day, hav­ing lost those three scalps early doors. Farhaan Be­har­dien,

and skip­per AB de Vil­liers scored un­de­feated half-cen­turies, but, for the most part, it looked like re­ally hard work.

“It was a sit­u­a­tion I’m quite used to com­ing into, hav­ing done for the Ti­tans,” Be­har­dien pointed out.

It was a cri­sis, as the tourists looked in dan­ger of fold­ing for a truly as­ton­ish­ing to­tal. Be­har­dien and De Vil­liers stead­ied the ship, to be sure, but they never left the har­bour.

“We tried, but we couldn’t get it go­ing. If AB de Vil­liers is strug­gling to get the ball away, then you know how tough it is,” Be­har­dien said.

That point is true, be­cause De Vil­liers him­self main­tained that they were try­ing to get go­ing for most of the sec­ond half of the in­nings.

Liam Daw­son and young Ma­son Crane kept a lid on them, and Be­har­dien rode his luck at times, but Eng­land were al­ways in con­trol.

One may have thought that South Africa would learn from the English bowlers, who bowled an in­ex­haustible num­ber of va­ri­eties, keep­ing the bats­men guess­ing.

Cru­cially, all of Eng­land’s bowlers kept the ball pitched up.

Half-track­ers don’t ask ques­tions as sin­cere as fuller lengths. It’s al­ways been the way, what­ever the for­mat.

Mark Wood dropped a few short – es­pe­cially the one to greet Be­har­dien – but that came with gen­uine gas.

A good team like South Africa picks those things up, and uses them to their ad­van­tage.

In­stead, one Wayne Par­nell over dis­ap­peared for 23 in­ex­pli­ca­ble runs.

Heads dropped, hope evap­o­rated, and con­ver­sa­tions switched to ‘by how much’ in­stead of ‘let’s wait for the SA spin­ners’.

Runs were spilt in the field, Be­har­dien him­self dropped a dolly on the bound­ary. It was all a great big mess. It was in keep­ing with this tour, and no-one can quite put a fin­ger on how such a big win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for suc­cess has shrunk into a port­hole to a sea of doom.

South Africa ap­pear dis­tracted, and they went through the mo­tions on Wed­nes­day.

Pa­trons who paid hard earned pounds went to the food and drink ven­dors at the back, and made a point of sup­port­ing them for a while longer, be­cause no-one ex­pected the pro­ces­sion that was.

Peo­ple ex­pect bet­ter from the Proteas, at home and abroad.

There was a sense of giv­ing up af­ter that Par­nell over, a case of when, not if, they would lose.

This team, th­ese play­ers, have never looked so be­lea­guered. And it has all hap­pened in the blink of an eye.

They are play­ing for pride in per­for­mance, even if they get trounced again – as widely ex­pected – in Taun­ton to­day.

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