South Africa cruise to chase nine wickets down

Aiden Markram lives up to his potential. Notes on the DRS, Shaheen, Babar, and Shadab.

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Watching South Africa over the last 30 years is like looking at the most beautiful person you have ever seen, knowing that their breath is so bad you could never kiss them, or even stay close to them for too long. For all this talk about psychologists and chokes and positivity, how about just chasing in every bilateral ODI in a four-year cycle where you win the toss?

Pakistan just lost too many wickets, but the Saud and Shadab partnership got them to a reasonable score. It should still have been a pretty easy chase for South Africa. But this is a World Cup, so no chases are easy for South Africa. They got in front of the rate, but they kept losing wickets. And really only Markram, who was incredible, looked comfortable in this chase. When he went as he tried to smash the ball away, we were left with Mohammad Wasim cramping and the South Africa tail. It was like watching a bunch of toddlers put together Ikea furniture.

Somehow Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi got them home. We had a close game in this World Cup.

How good is that? Even if it means that for the next 19 games, the top four is basically sorted and we have the longest dead rubber run in the history of a sport dedicated to dead runners unless some seriously weird shit happens.

19 dead rubbers for all, 19 dead rubbers to watch, if one of those rubbers should end up close, then we’ll have 18 dead rubbers to go.

South Africa chasing (JK)

Temba Bavuma said they had a blueprint on how to bat first, and not one to bat second. I am not even sure they have notes scribbled down.

The South Africans made a huge mistake last match in not fielding first. They need to chase as much as possible, and today was the ideal total to go after. 220 would not have tested them at all, and 320 would have made them sweat too much. 270 was nicely in the middle of that. Enough to make them work, but they could also get there in a messy way.

They got in front of the rate. Made it so they only had to worry about wickets. The problem is their team is not set up for wickets at all. Once Klaasen went out, they were in a precarious position. Jansen more than did his job at seven, but he was in very early. And in a chase, it is tough on a young player who hasn’t made many runs in his life.

Especially when you are dealing with a multi-generational problem like this. In case you haven’t seen my video on South Africa and their World Cup problems. Almost all of them can be traced back to the chase. Since Lance Klusener ran out Allan Donald, South Africa have won less than half their chases.

Today they got home in part because Pakistan’s spin isn’t great. If they had one decent spinner, South Africa would lose this game. Even with only the three seamers to deal with, it took Tabraiz Shami and Kesah Maharaj’s epic seven runs to get them over the line.

You see it in players’ records as well. Rassie van der Dussen in the last few years has been one of the best bats in ODI cricket. When South Africa bat first, he averages over 60 at a run-a-ball. When they bat second, he doesn’t pass 30.

Why do they turn up at every World Cup with the same issue?

Rassie’s LBW (JK)

Let us take a look at this LBW, because on the screen this was missing, and then a few minutes later it was hitting. And while I love the idea that the ICC has decided that Pakistan must win this match as a conspiracy, just because of how insane that is. There is something else going on.

This is the first clip of the ball where you can see on the screen it says missing.

Then a short while later it came up on the screen that the ball was clipping. Not sure there was enough time to make a phone call (if Hawkeye operators are even allowed to have phones on) to be told to move this around.

This is the two images overlaid, so you can see that the Hawkeye paths are identical. But after impact, there does seem to be a slight variation. So the ball hasn’t changed. So how did the decision change? Well, an unknown thing in Hawkeye is that some of it is manual. A person has to decide when the ball has hit the pads. And it’s really tricky. Pads shift and crumble, plus we don’t have unlimited frames from every angle. So there is an element of human error when doing this. It is one of the main reasons we have umpire’s call.

This is what Anand thinks happened, that they changed the impact of the ball, but sadly by then, they had broadcast the wrong image. It has happened before, and will again. We’ve seen plenty of other mistakes in this World Cup, like the awful Stoinis call.

The one good thing is that the ICC actually admitted the mistake. Too often an error happens and they hide behind the stupid “we don’t talk about the umpiring decision” mantra they came up with. This time they said, the first graphic was wrong.

It’s a shame of course, because conspiracy is more fun, but cock up is the real reason here.

Aiden Markram’s rise (JK)

So last year Aiden Markram’s strike rate in ODIs was 86. It made no sense.

He should be better than that. Some of this was also that he was just learning how to make runs in ODIs, but even still, he was too good to be this slow. This year it is 120. That is quite the leap. The strike rotation problems he used to have seemed to have been paused. Today he hit the hardest pull shot for an agreed one I have ever seen.

So this is it with T20 in as well, because I figured maybe he has got faster there too. He has not. In fact, they are almost the same. Markram is playing ODI like it is T20. That isn’t how most things happen, usually, both would rise or dip. But I think this is partly because he takes a long time to get going. His batting is like a semi-trailer, it takes a while to turn and start, but once it gets downhill, look out.

Marco Jansen in the Powerplay (SAK)

Before the World Cup, we talked about how Jansen’s bad record with the new ball didn’t make sense. He has the tools - he’s freakishly tall, he bowls fast, can move the ball laterally, gets good bounce, and has a good bowling action.

By far, he has been the best bowler with the new ball. This level of performance may not last throughout the tournament - SA may actually win the whole thing if it does. Form and conditions can really affect these things - Woakes was really good coming into the tournament, while Jansen wasn’t getting the job done in this role.

Gerald Coetzee is quick (SAK)

There was a little more bounce in the pitch today compared to the NZ v Ban game. It is a lot different from the sort of wickets that we usually see Jadeja, Moeen and Theekshana bowl on during the IPL. These wickets have good carry and bounce.

You can see this ball, it is short and fast. That is a quality batter beaten for pace and bounce in Chennai. Also, how cool are his celebrations? Another one here where he gets that extra bounce.

He takes more wickets with short balls plus back of a length balls than anyone. Only Ferguson has one more wicket with the short ball, despite Coetzee bowling much fewer deliveries. He has had incredible success at doing this. I wonder if he has actually under bowled the short ball at times, but maybe he was also encouraged to attack the stumps with the pace he has.

Tabreiz Shamsi takes wickets (SAK)

He got it done with the bat today, but he also took 4 wickets which made it even more fun. He has 6th most wickets by any spinner since the last World Cup. He is a proper wicket-taker (sub-30 ODI bowling SR). The economy is a bit high but compliments Maharaj quite well. He was also the #1 ranked T20I bowler in 2020-21.

It is probably tactical that he is not a starter in the team, so he just plays in favourable conditions. I know he’s a bit of a liability on the field and doesn't bat as well, but I think he should be playing on flat pitches and when there’s any assistance for spin.

Golden sub (JK)

It looked bad when Shadab Khan dove for the ball and ended up on the ground with the physio telling him not to move his neck.

I was thinking this was not even the first time he had hurt his neck as well. Earlier this year he hurt himself playing for Sussex. But you also saw him slam his head, and in the end, it was a concussion from the collision he made with the ground. And watching him warm up, he looked completely out of it.

This is after he bats, in which he basically puts on enough runs to almost steal the game.

So they got to combine Shadab’s batting with Usama’s bowling. And he hasn’t been that much better this tournament, but out of the two, or even three other Pakistan spinners, Usama looks like the only one who can take a wicket.

Shaheen Afridi at the back end (JK)

Sometimes when a player doesn’t look the same, we think that means they aren’t as good. And so I think I assumed like most people that Shaheen had been struggling in his second and third spells in ODIs.

But when you look at it, it’s been his best year bowling at the end. Even before this match at the World Cup, he’s been really good. I think we see more cutters, and before it was the reverse and raw pace. Now he is smarter.

However, clearly in the last couple of years before this one, he was struggling, so maybe he has found a way to still make it work.

Babar vs left-arm wrist spin (SAK)

Noor Ahmad and Tabraiz Shamsi have now dismissed Babar Azam in back-to-back games. He also struggled against Kuldeep in the India game and was dismissed by him in the Asia Cup too. The difference between the right arm seam and the rest is staggering - it’s what you expect from a young batter.

He’s always a bit conservative against off-spin. But he looked at ease against left-arm orthodox, which obviously hasn’t reflected in this World Cup yet.

Teams are now employing an unusually high amount of spin against Babar, which seems like tactics.

The Saud-Shadab Partnership (SAK)

This was one of the quickest partnerships of the game. Pak looked on course to get to 320, but they lost wickets in a cluster towards the end.

That’s why you play Shadab, it’s a real shame he’s not bowling as well.