Proteas fi­nally shine through af­ter dark days in Eng­land

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA

BRIL­LIANTLY, South Africa have dared to breathe life into the T20 se­ries against Eng­land, as we head to a rous­ing fi­nale in Cardiff today.

In the big­ger pic­ture, a T20 se­ries will be naught but a foot­note to the Tests and the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy post-mortem.

And yet, on Fri­day night, as the last rites were be­ing pre­pared by the Taunton town-crier, the tourists taunted fate and had the last laugh.

Andile Phehluk­wayo (pic­tured) was en­trusted with the fi­nal over, with ten other play­ers will­ing him to de­fend the 11 runs left.

He did, of course, and a change-room that had suf­fered much was lifted.

“I still in­sist that we just played one bad game at the wrong time,” man of the match Chris Mor­ris said of the aborted Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy mis­sion.

It feels like a long time al­ready, but it is just a fort­night ago.

A lot of wa­ter has passed un­der the Proteas’ bridge since then, but in that time they have only played two games.

The first one, on Wed­nes­day, was so meek that some may ar­gue that South Africa didn’t par­tic­i­pate.

In Taunton, with na­tional pride, per­sonal am­bi­tion and col­lec­tive char­ac­ter all on the line, they an­swered their cap­tain’s call.

Mor­ris sang De Vil­liers’ praises for the sense of calm he brought in those fi­nal, fre­netic min­utes.

In­deed, the most con­cerned that South Africa’s cap­tain looked in the last hour was when he had to take a catch at an in­creas­ingly murky mid-off.

Eoin Mor­gan, the bats­man dis­missed, later com­mented that it was the dark­est con­di­tions he’d ever played in.

Mor­gan did win the toss, so he ought to have con­sid­ered that a place with no lights may need a can­dle or two if things got tight.

Eng­land didn’t of­fer ex­cuses; they sim­ply cul­ti­vated de­feat from the val­ley where wins re­side.

It was bizarre, pan­icky, and all turned on the back of Ja­son Roy block­ing traf­fic at the non-striker’s end.

Mor­gan, with­out ac­tu­ally com­mit­ting fully to it, ad­mit­ted that there was enough there to send his opener on his way.

Mem­bers of the home press were en­raged.

“There are kids watch­ing. Is this the ex­am­ple that we set them, to ap­peal for such things? Do we en­cour­age them to throw at bats­men in­stead of stumps?”

It was a bizarre ques­tion, an emo­tional re­ac­tion to a prac­ti­cal change of the rules for those who change the course of their path back to the pop­ping crease.

Mor­ris, the man at the heart of the ap­peal, was ab­so­lutely cer­tain, even long af­ter the pan­tomime flames had died down.

“You have to ap­peal. We’ll take any­thing to swing the game our way right now,” he ad­mit­ted.

The Proteas took that and ran with it, Mor­ris zon­ing on Liam Liv­ing­stone’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity and wrench­ing the mo­men­tum back South Africa’s way.

Then young Dane Pater­son and Phehluk­wayo fin­ished off what Mor­ris and Morné Morkel had set up.

In years to come, both may look back on that Fri­day moment as a source of in­spi­ra­tion for big­ger bat­tles, with big­ger stakes.

Both their body lan­guage sug­gested an ap­petite for con­fronta­tion, which is pre­cisely what the death overs are in T20 cricket.

Mor­ris was hearty in his praise for both of them. He was gen­uinely proud, and then spoke of the pride they all have in play­ing for their coun­try.

Mor­ris also touched on a chair that was empty in the change-room and the team bus.

The team is cur­rently with­out their coach, as Rus­sell Domingo headed home ur­gently for a fam­ily emer­gency.

“Coach, this one’s for you,” Mor­ris of­fered fiercely.

At a time when some of the rhetoric around the Proteas has headed to­wards doom, the Domingo fam­ily plight splashed a touch of per­spec­tive on pro­ceed­ings.

You win or you lose a cricket game. The sun rises again, and you get an­other go.

The sun shone on the Proteas again in Taunton, and they will go to Cardiff today hop­ing it shines on them once more.

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