Pakistan v South Africa, 5 June 1999by Trevor Chesterfield
South Africa need to be on their toes at Trent Bridge
Nottingham (England) - If you get the drift of Hansie Cronje’s comments at Trent Bridge yesterday he is not at all happy the way South Africa fiddled away two precious Super Six points against Zimbabwe. In fact the defeat in Chelmsford still rankles with the skipper.
And on the eve of possibly the most important game of the World Cup campaign, against Pakistan at Trent Bridge today, a few tough words and thoughts in the right area (if not ear) might not be out of place as the log leaders of Group A and Group B try an earn a psychological edge.
Naturally Cronje did not actually come out with phrases such as ‘we were too over-confident’ or ‘we thought Zimbabwe would be a pushover’, more likely they were ‘we made too many silly mistakes’ and ‘we need to lift the level of our game’. Especially as he had already warned the team after the win over England and Kenya there were some areas ‘where we need to improve’.
Not that Cronje, or the coach, Bob Woolmer, are in the sort of mind frame which suggests, ‘can’t bat, can’t bowl but can field a bit’ syndrome; more likely they have let the players cop it and you can bet they were far from being too gentle with their comments.
Perhaps the side did not have the right focus after Amsterdam hiatus and allowed the threat of Zimbabwe to escape unnoticed until it was too late. With Pakistan, they know where they are: Wasim Akram’s side has not only displaced them as favourites, they and are now looking the likely heir apparent to the crown vacated by an out of touch Sri Lanka.
Both teams have, however, been messed around by the weather, South Africa perhaps more than Pakistan as outdoor nets have been largely curtailed because of rain and more rain and the threat of more descending on this midlands city today just to apply a little Murphy’s Law and perhaps some calculations from the stable of Duckworth and Lewis.
South Africa do, however, need to address a couple of serious questions: continuous top-order failures and a lack of runs from the top six. Okay, against England, when sent into bat at The Oval, Messrs Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs did put together a 50 partnership and Jacques Kallis scored a handsome 96. Two minor crumbs of comfort as the lower-order has had to dig deep too often to win matches. Against Zimbabwe they were on a respirator, if not quite dead, when Cronje was yorked.
It is all very well to address the problem: to set it right is another matter as runs up front are desperately needed if South Africa are to make any serious impression on their chances of pulling back the points lost against Zimbabwe. It is a display they may regret and South Africa are going to need at least one of the top four to bat through the innings.
Not that it has been easy to bat on some of the pitches they have played on in this tournament. And not that Cronje has had the luck of the toss conferred on him in the first round.
Now there is the double edge of Pakistan pace and spin confronting the shaky confidence of the top-order and you can guarantee that Wasim Akram will exploit the problem. Apart from sharing the new ball with Shoaib Akhtar, the man most feel will break the 100 mph (about 160 km/h) pace barrier this tournament, the Pakistan captain has a couple of other aces hidden in the pack.
Apart from net sessions not much has been seen of either Mushtaq Ahmed or Waqar Younis, other than lounging around the dressing rooms of the various pavilions. Waqar might bee seen as the right foil for Shoaib against South Africa and leg-spinner Mushtaq as a cunning partner in spin with Saqlain.
South Africa need to be a little bolder upfront if they hope to challenge the multi-talents of the Pakistanis; another feeble performance will add to the pressure mounting to reach the semi-finals.