South Africa wins crack papers as Proteas lean on England for answers | South Africa cricket team
SSouth Africa’s 27-round win over England at the Mangaung Oval on Friday kept hopes alive of automatic qualification for the World Cup that England will defend in India in October. They have yet to win the series, however, either in the second game at the same venue on Sunday or in the final game of the series on Wednesday in the Kimberley, 100 miles away.
The Proteas will then need to beat the Netherlands in their last two World Cup Super League games in April to make it into the main draw without having to travel to Harare for the 10-team qualifier in June, which will decide the bottom two spots .
But the team’s struggles in ODI cricket hardly matter compared to the direction the entire professional game was taking a few years ago. A largely ethically bankrupt administration led the governing body, Cricket SA, into inevitable financial bankruptcy.
The new SA20 league, which has been on hiatus for a week while this series takes place, is hopefully the solution to all of CSA’s woes. All six teams in the tournament have been sold to IPL franchises raking in millions of dollars and the domestic game is being restructured to suit their needs.
Even the international schedule has been rearranged to keep them happy; An ODI series against Australia was forfeited earlier this month to ensure the best players were available for the SA20, contributing to the current World Cup disposition.
One advantage for England was the return of opener Jason Roy on Friday after a year in the doldrums, with his exciting 79-ball century due in part to his involvement in the SA20 where he opened batting with fellow national captain Jos Buttler. “The franchise at Paarl Royals has done a great deal for me, they put their arm around me and made me feel really welcome and I really enjoyed my cricket again,” Roy said on Friday.
Paarl Royals’ Jason Roy prepares for a major strike in the SA20. Photo: Rogan Ward/Shutterstock
Buttler said before the ODI series he was naive before his time with the Paarl Royals. He was referring to the financial situation of the game in South Africa.
In the absence of honesty and meaningful leadership from the CSA, the SA Cricketers Association took a trip across the country during which they told their professional players the naked truth: they could all be out of work within a year or two. “We told them the cold, hard truth, and they were happy to hear it,” said SACA chief executive Andrew Breetzke. “It will take some time before the financial situation stabilizes, but at least there is now light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I really enjoyed it, it was a fantastic tournament. I was probably a bit naïve when I came here about how important it is for South Africa and South African cricket,” Buttler said. “I shared a dressing room with these guys. I heard them explain how much they needed a tournament like this and how nice it is to see the cricket stadiums full again and the people watching.
“I didn’t really know what a big deal it was, but it was a great tournament. I enjoyed the games and we got really good support in Paarl, it’s a nice line-up there,” said Buttler.
As long as it takes for the SA20 money to seep into the domestic game, it will also take time for the national team to rebuild and become consistently competitive again. For the past 30 years the South Africans have been obsessed with winning a World Cup, now they hope to be at one.
Friday’s victory was due far more to England’s botched 299-run pursuit from an opening 146 than to the home side’s performance. Attitudes and approaches to the game are slowly changing in South Africa, and conservative hitting on a flat field resulted in them being at least 20 runs short of par. Buttler said England were pleased to have limited the home side to 298 for seven.
SA20 league commissioner, former national captain Graeme Smith, says the new tournament will “change the game forever” in the country as Buttler and Roy will be joined by other international stars for local players to learn from and improve their own games . Current national white-ball captain Temba Bavuma said there was nothing wrong with borrowing “ideas” from an England side he described as “pioneers of the new era”.
Without Jonny Bairstow at the top of the rankings and Joe Root and Ben Stokes in the middle, and with Jofra Archer conceding 81 runs from 10 overs, England were far from their best but it is still believed to be the next two Winning games and crashing Bavuma’s team returns to the confusion that has defined their game and the national game for the last three years.