South Africa 217 for 5 (de Villiers 70*) beat New Zealand 214 (Taylor 72, Parnell 5-57) by five wickets
There was an interesting moment in the coverage of South Africa’s (relatively) easy win over New Zealand in yesterday’s Champions Trophy match. The commentators were talking about relative experience, something that had been discussed at length in the Pakistan V West Indies B game. The commentators paused for a moment to compare the New Zealand team of today, with the one that won the tournament not that long ago. Back then, the likes of Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle, Chris Cairns and Craig MacMillan were the nucleus of a fairly strong team.
Now, it is unfair to the team out on the park yesterday to directly compare, as this is a team that is trying to build, but it certainly did prove illuminating to think of those quality players in comparison with the likes of Neil Broom and Gareth Hopkins. When ‘fast bowler’ Darryl Tuffey was ‘steaming’ in at 126km’s an hour, you did start to worry.
All that said, New Zealand have always been fighters, and although their current team is really not very good, they did push South Africa as much as they could. A fine 72 by Ross Taylor, with support from Grant Elliott (39) and Brendan McCullum (44) saw the Kiwi’s make a modest, yet competitive 214. It really could have been much more, after being at one stage 5-202 in the 43rd over but they lost their last 5 wickets for 11 runs in three over’s, and in reality, their game was over. As ever, poor old Daniel Vettori was left stranded at the non-strikers end, as he watched his teammates spoon lollypop catches to the waiting cover fieldsmen. The South African bowling was good, without being great. Wayne ‘I get wickets at a price’ Parnell took 5 wickets for plenty, but the real standout was Roelof van der Merwe who bowled 10 very good overs, managing a maiden and 2 for 35. Johan Botha chimed in with one also, and it is truly extraordinary the complete change in South African bowling, with the arrival of some quality spinners. Dale Steyn too, was impressive with 2 fiery wickets.
South Africa’s batting never really looked in trouble throughout. It is almost a shame to have to see Shane Bond back in international cricket. When he left the scene, to chase riches in the ICL, he was one of the most destructive bowlers in world cricket. But years on the sidelines, and an older body, has reduced him to something that New Zealand is all to familiar with; a ‘Medium Fast’ bowler who ‘tries’. Vettori was good, but lacked any real support given the dropping of Jetan Patel. In fact Patel’s absence was even more noticeable when Martin Guptil was thrown the ball. At the time Shane Doull (former Kiwi quick) was commentating and he immediately splurt out: ‘I don’t reckon I’ve EVER seen Marty bowl!!’…Didn’t fill one with confidence. Jacques Kallis looked good for 35, Boucher hit some boundaries, as did Albie Morkel, but the real standout was A.B. DeVilliers, who is turning quickly into one of my favourite cricketers. With his ridiculous ability and skill he has every right to be a robo-clone with no personality, but quite the contrary he is purely effervescent. He has a continual smile on his face, and seems almost bashful about his extraordinary skills, a true talent.
All in all it was an enjoyable game, with good crowd involvement, some key standout performances, and one team that was quite simply better than the other.
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