January 19, 2000

Ashish Bagai stands tall among the ruins

When South Africa won the toss in the match against the Americas, they jumped at the opportunity to have a good bat on a sunny day at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy. Both openers, G Smith (59) and A Puttick (76) got stuck into the juicy American medium pacers and pasted them all around the park. None of the American bowlers could stop the steady flow of runs.

It was only Oliver Pitcher who provided some respite with his nippy spell of 7-0-27-2. Pitcher ran up to the crease with a steady rhythm and his enthusiasm never diminished through his spell. It was hardly surprising that he picked up the only two wickets to go to the bowlers on the day. When Smith mishit Pitcher, the ball was safely held by Stephen Outerbridge to give America its first breakthrough. Once again it was Pitcher who made the difference as a good sharp throw from the deep found Puttick short of his ground. Century maker from earlier Jacques Rudolph also fell to Pitcher as he attempted a wild swipe across the line to a straight ball and missed the ball completely. Scorecards will never reveal how much spirit Oliver Pitcher brought to this game.

Apart from those three breakthroughs, there was no joy for America as the South Africans marched confidently on to 264/3 off 50 overs.

The South Africans played their cricket hard, and probably more so because they had been eliminated from the Super League without actually completing a single game. In contrast the Americans were relaxed and looked to enjoy the day?s cricket. However it must be said that this did not reduce the earnestness with which they approached the game.

No 11 from the last game, Kevin Sandhers, came out to open the batting in the company of Zubin Surkari. But Surkari didn?t last very long, with Morkel and Senekal steaming in and generating a fair bit of pace. Sandhers stuck around for over eight overs before he was caught by Smith at third slip when he jabbed at a ball from Senekal. Though he was at the crease for over eight overs, Sandhers had not yet opened his account.

Once again it was only Ashish Bagai who displayed any felicity with the bat. He flicked and cut especially well, and looked comfortable against all the bowlers. His unbeaten innings of 53, studded with six boundaries was a reminder to the South Africans that the game of cricket is never until the last ball has been bowled or the last wicket taken. He was well supported by Stephen Outerbridge who spent 68 minutes at the wicket to make 15 runs before he was brilliantly caught behind by Tsolekile off the bowling of Morkel.

Eventually America was all out for 113, giving South Africa victory by 151 runs.