Shortened game 'had meaning'
The Proteas may be enjoying a two-day break from the bright lights of the World T20 and, no doubt, from media scrutiny, but they will be interested to learn when they return to ‘the office’ on Tuesday that the concensus of opinion among most experts was that their 32-run victory against hosts Sri Lanka in a match reduced to just seven overs a side was worth far more than most matches contested over such a short distance.
The batting skills displayed by Hashin Amla, captain AB de Villiers and JP Duminy (who would have thought a five-ball innings could be so valuable?) and the phenomenal bowling of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel made the rest of the tournament’s competitors sit up and take note. Public comment has been understandably short and ‘polite’, but privately many captains admitted to a feeling of mild awe at the size of the victory in a game of just 42 balls per side.
“We had an 11-over game and a nine-over game in England and we said there and then that they might be important practise because there is always rain in Sri Lanka at this time of year,” De Villiers said after the game.
“It’s not easy to stay focused with all the rain around and the feeling that it’s going to be called off, but we had a chat and reminded each other of the lessons we had learned from those games. It doesn’t even take a whole over to win or lose the game – you can do it in three or four balls! So it was very satisfying that the guys were on the button from ball one.”
De Villiers said the team would remain prepared for another reduced game as long as they remained in the tournament: “You can get a reduced over game at any time. It could happen in the final. We’re ready for that now. It’s still the same game between bat and ball, you’ve just got to think on your feet and be brave.”
If the size of the victory against Sri Lanka raised eyebrows, it’s fair to say that so has the Proteas’ decision to have a ‘mini holiday’ for 48 hours. Apart from “refreshing their resources” as coach Gary Kirsten described it, the rest also has something to do with the fact that South Africa’s three Super Eight matches will be played in just five days.
“It’s something that we’re aware of and it’s something that we spoke about. We will a break away from the game over the next few days and get our minds fresh. What’s going to come is going to be intense and it’s going to require a lot of energy and mental strength as well. When we meet again we’ll make sure we get the quality and not quantity out of the training sessions,” De Villiers said.
As for winning a seven-over match, the captain was philosophical: “It’s still a win. When you beat one of the best teams in the world, which Sri Lanka have been for a long time, you take confidence out of that. It’s nice to get into winning habits, and we know you’re only as good as your last game.”