High pitch: Proteas make most of Trinidad conditions to enter final

In response, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram were measured before the last two scoring shots from the former — a six and a four — rubber-stumped their total dominance.
Gulbadin Naib gets clean bowled by Marco Jansen (not in pic)
Gulbadin Naib gets clean bowled by Marco Jansen (not in pic) (Photo | AFP)

CHENNAI: After seven attempts and various hues of failures — heartbreaks, nonsensical rain-rules, meltdowns and beatdowns each adding another catalogue to their list of downfalls — the South African men’s side finally broke down the poisoned chalice to their liking. On a surface with more cracks than on a dodgy part of the moon, their bowlers scythed through the Afghanistan batters, shooting them out for 56 in 11.5 overs.

In response, Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram were measured before the last two scoring shots from the former — a six and a four — rubber-stumped their total dominance. Those two scoring shots also generally flew in the face of what an even strip this was. You had to be really lucky to not be dismissed as the ball played various tricks after pitching. One ball would scoot along.

Another, after finding a similar length on the deck, jumped up like an agitated cobra. The pacier and taller Proteas bowlers exploited the conditions perfectly to advance to their first men’s World Cup final across formats.

So, one would have normally expected them to carve out a small strip of land from the Brian Lara Stadium at Tarouba for keepsake. It would have been normal human reaction; after 32 years, relief.

But, nope. They couldn’t wait to get out. “The wickets that we have had throughout the competition have been pretty challenging,” said South Africa captain Aiden Markram. That he was asked to reflect on the surface minutes into the press conference spoke volumes. “Tonight’s wicket was pretty challenging once again. It’s hard to say that a wicket is not good because it can’t just always be a batter’s game, but I think if we reflect back on this wicket, we will probably be pretty happy that we are not playing here again.”

Crikey.

Afghanistan coach, Jonathan Trott, didn’t want to sound bitter but he was also pretty categorical in his assessment of the 22 yards. “I don’t want to get myself into trouble... I don’t want to come across as bitter,” he said. “But that’s not the pitch you want to have a match on, plain and simple. It should be a fair contest. I’m saying you shouldn’t have batsmen worrying about going forward and the ball flying over their head.

“If the opposition bowled well and got to a position where they bowled well, and it’s through skill, then that’s fine. But once the ball starts misbehaving and rolling...”

Trott got to the heart of the issue. To give one example, one Ancrich Nortje pitched on a back of length area before climbing above the blade of Karim Janat. It continued its upward trajectory and evaded a jumping Quinton de Kock glove for four byes. It was a throwback to that very cracky Cape Town surface where India and South Africa played a two-day Test in last year’s Boxing Day Test.

With this much variable bounce and exaggerated seam movement on offer, Kagiso Rabada, Nortje, Marco Jansen and Tabraiz Shamsi knew they only had to keep the stumps and outside edge in play at all times which they did. “If we had bowled as straight as South Africa had, I think you would have seen a very interesting second half as well,” Trott added. “South Africa bowled well, used the conditions, and showed our boys what it’s capable of.” Amidst all this, one thing has to be said. The result and the surface do not reflect the incredible campaign Afghanistan have had. For South Africa, destiny awaits.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 56 in 11.5 ovs

(Jansen 3/16, Rabada 2/14, Nortje 2/7, Shamsi 3/6) lost to South Africa 60/1 in 8.5 ovs

(Hendricks 29 n.o).

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