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January 23, 2000
South Africa brushed aside Ireland in the last round of the Plate League today. Replying to the Irish total of 78 all out, the South Africans cruised passed the target in the 14th over without losing a wicket.
After winning the toss and electing to bat on a damp early morning wicket, Ireland desperately needed to make a solid start. Dominic Joyce was off the mark handsomely square cutting the fourth ball of the day from Gewald Senekal for four. Senekal was rewarded for an aggressive and controlled opening spell, striking in the 9th over, O'Brien the batsman to fall, caught by Smith in the slips for a dogged 10, the total being 24.
The Irish, used to the slow, low wickets at home, have struggled to come to terms with the pace and steep bounce the bowlers extract on Sri Lankan pitches. It was not long before the South Africans exposed their weaknesses here, Joyce was the second wicket to fall, his feet in no man's land, out caught behind the stumps by Abrahams off the bowling of Botha. From that moment on the Irish batting order disappeared without a trace during a collapse in which they lost the last eight wickets for 52 runs and were all out in the 30th over. It was a typically cultured performance by South Africa in the field. Senekal, later named man of the match, was the pick of the bowlers returning figures of four for 28.
In reply it was batting practice for the South African batsmen, the clean hitting openers Graeme Smith (38) and Jacques Rudolph (40) leading the way to an emphatic ten wicket victory in just 14.3 overs.
Keke Dali, manager of the South Africans summarised the day. Speaking to Cricinfo, he said ``It seems we are not in the same league as Ireland. It is also apparent that we are not in the same league as any of our opponents so far because our margin of victory has been so wide. The only problem has been the weather."
Asked whether Southern African neighbours Zimbabwe might provide stiffer opposition in the final stages of the Plate, a confident Dali simply stated, "they are not a threat.''
Despite the loss, Ireland have gained second place in the group and face another stiff challenge in the Plate semi-finals. Ian Johnson, the manager of the team told CricInfo "It is not often we will get the chance to play teams like South Africa. Today was a great experience for all the players. Their cricket must improve because of it. Individually the occasional performance has stood out, but we have not clicked as a team yet."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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