Proteas bury the jinx but have plenty to do to lift the Cup

Date: March 20, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

RSA World CupWe have arrived at the pointy – or should that be meaningful – part of the World Cup.

Last night South Africa broke through for its first win in a knock-out match since it played its first tournament, following readmission, in 1992.

It was not a matter of removing a monkey off their back but a gorilla of King Kong proportions.

The historic win could hardly have been more emphatic.

After dismissing Sri Lanka for a paltry 133, the total was surpassed for the loss of just one wicket with 32 overs to spare.

In short, it was a drubbing and a sad way for veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to bow out of one-day cricket.

The common perception was that South Africa had to win the toss and bat first to win for the side’s record batting second in recent years has been modest.

Some have painted the team as frontrunners that post stratospheric totals when batting first – it has amassed three scores over 400 in the past two months – but often get twitchy and struggle batting second.

When the coin fell in favour of Angelo Matthews at the SCG yesterday South Africa’s price would have slipped out dramatically.

A psychological blow had been struck before a ball had been bowled.

Any cause for concern among Proteas’ fans was soon expunged.

For a team that had batted so well throughout the tournament it was a meek way for the Sri Lankans to bow out.

Perennial talisman Sangakkara (45) stood tall among the mayhem before becoming the ninth wicket to fall.

The Proteas had Sri Lanka in trouble from the gun with both openers – Kusal Perera (3) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (0) – gone before end of the fifth over.

Aside from Lahiru Thirimanne (41) – strangely dropped from opener to number four – no other batsman supported Sangakkara.

South Africa’s attack was clinical.

Whilst Dale Steyn has looked listless at various stages through the tournament he set the tone with 1-18 from seven overs.

Fellow quicks Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott each claimed a wicket but it was the slow bowling department that would have brought the biggest smile to South African fans.

Most Australians remember Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir for his personally catastrophic performance in the 2012 Adelaide Test where he went for 0-260 from 37 overs.

While his Test figures continue to be problematic (43 wickets at 46.4), his performances in the one-day arena have proved invaluable to skipper A B De Villiers.

In his 37th match, he claimed a match-winning 4-26 off 8.2 overs to take his career tally to 70 scalps at 19.9.

He is every bit as effective in the middle overs as Steyn has so often been at the top and tail.

In a tournament where pace has been the dominant force Tahir is the leading wicket-taker amongst the spinners with 15 at 18.9.

The perceived Achilles heel for South Africa has been the fifth bowler.

De Villiers has on occasions used himself along with Riley Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien to help make up the last ten-over bracket.

Yesterday it was left to J P Duminy whose nine overs returned figures of 3-29 including a hat-trick spanning two overs that escaped the eye of several commentators.

His absence from the side through injury at the start of the tournament robbed the Proteas of a handy middle-overs option.

Whilst he is not a big turner of the ball he has the ability to bowl a tight line and seldom drops short.

For South Africa to win a maiden World Cup title Duminy loom as one of the keys.

He will certainly be targeted by opponents and if he fails to hold up under the pressure it will pose headaches for De Villiers.

As for the skipper, he had the luxury of watching from the player balcony as his side cruised to victory.

Wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock tuned up for the semi-final – most likely against New Zealand – with a smooth flowing unbeaten 78.

It was a crucial knock given his previous six innings had produced a meagre 53 runs with some fans suggesting it was time for De Villiers to take over behind the stumps.

South Africa will be extremely buoyed by last night’s win especially given the game was seen by everyone as being the toughest of the quarter-finals to pick.

There is still considerable water to flow beneath the bridge before the champion is crowned but at present the Proteas and their supporters have reason to have more optimism than at similar points in preceding World Cups.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 19 March 2015