The Book of Mormon is a musical parody of the Mormon Church. It takes apart the church block by block in an amusing and intelligent way as people swear, dance and sing. The crowd love it.
South Africa’s batting display was a parody of South Africa. It was neither amusing nor intelligent, and made people swear. But it was a different kind of parody, one that was to imitate feebly. The South African crowd did not love it.
The shots were a collection of comedy worsts that should be part of a Father’s Day DVD in the near future. Leaving and being caught behind. Swiping across a straight one. Wildly swinging at a wide one. Cutting a full one. Stumping yourself by slip. And whatever Faf du Plessis’s shot was.
JP Duminy faced 11 balls. It seemed like he was dismissed on everyone one of them. At once stage every single South African batsman decided every single straight ball should be hit to the leg side with the bat faced closed off. It was madness. Horrible disgusting putrid madness.
But even this madness should be evaluated. The shots were so poor, random and odd it is hard to even take them seriously. But their thinking, which wasn’t under pressure but would have been thought out of sober analysis and pre-planning, was just as bad.
The repeated assertion that Colin Ingram couldn’t open died down a bit when he actually made 73 against West Indies. But it doesn’t change the fact that he is a makeshift opener with a first class average of 34.45 taking on a Test bowling attack in a must-win match. It’s not solid thinking. Ingram has been a success down the order and South Africa have a spare opener in the squad. With Alviro Petersen making runs in county cricket, opening with Ingram seems like a risk you don’t need to take.
Then to back him up with Robin Peterson, who has batted in the top order six times in 72 matches is actually insane. Why back up a makeshift opener with a makeshift No. 3? The ball is moving, you have proper Test hundred scorers in your line up, and England are already on top with an early wicket. That Peterson spent any time at the wicket was a testament to what a strong gutsy cricketer he is. That he was eventually out when James Anderson bowled four straight outswingers and then one that didn’t was not a surprise, he did well to last that long.
To back up Colin Ingram with Robin Peterson, was insane. Why back up a makeshift opener with a makeshift No. 3.
In the place of Ingram and Peterson should be Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. You can’t replace them. Although if you are going to do so, adding a No. 9 at No. 3 and a makeshift opener is probably the worst way to try.
But this team still had class batsmen. Hashim Amla is a God who cover drives among us. JP Duminy averages over 40 in ODI cricket. Du Plessis has started his Test career like an alien monster in a bad mood. And AB de Villiers can do absolutely every-damn-thing, except write pop songs that aren’t overly emotive. They were all there. All batting in the middle of The Oval. Facing England. As their country was reduced to 80 for 8.
In the end, it was a T20 slogger with a first-class Average of 29.57, and a bowling allrounder who managed to delay the inevitable and ensure that the score was not so embarrassingly low that South African fans couldn’t see the number without vomiting in their mouth.
David Miller played the sort of innings he is unknown for, a composed international sensible knock. A man with none of the pedigree of the rest of his batsmen, and less of the technique, managed to play the right shots to the right ball. He did it on an incredibly flat pitch once the ball had stopped swinging. Mind you, had any of his team mates struck around, they could have done the same. The player who stuck with him was Rory Kleinveldt. Who as a batsman is solid, dependable, and bats much like any No. 10 in club sides the world over. He’s clunky and unromantic, but you can’t help but enjoy any success he has.
That partnership will help those two players. But it didn’t help the team at all. All it did was prolong their misery.
De Villiers tried everything he could in the field. Had it been allowed, he would have suggested his bowlers try fancy dress and had his fielders singing Duckworth-Lewis Method songs in falsetto. His first three overs were by Chris Morris, Peterson and Duminy. After 11 overs, he’d tried five bowlers. He was essentially throwing bowlers at a wall, hoping one would fall down and trip the English batsmen. Few did.
After the match Alastair Cook said South Africa didn’t choke, Gary Kirsten said they did. It doesn’t really matter; they don’t mark scorecards with choke or non-choke. If they did put random words on the scorecard, choke might be the most popular, but parody probably suits best. As whether it was in the satirical or imitating sense, that is what South Africa were doing today.