India v South Africa, Champions Trophy, Group B, Cardiff June 6, 2013

South Africa wolves lack bite

Deprived of their full-strength bowling attack, South Africa looked an altogether woollier proposition
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South Africa's Test side has a discipline, know-how and physicality that has worn down the best the world can offer. Opponents bounce off the South Africa Test side like rubber balls off an oak door. South Africa's one-day side does not possess the same authority. It is a side trying to disguise its deficiencies as well as it can.

AB de Villiers wants South Africa's one-day side to have the same resilience and sense of threat. That is only natural, it is the side he captains. He had promised to release a pack of wolves against India but, if it suffers many more bowling injuries, it could become the sort of wolf pack that even Mowgli learned he could stare down in The Jungle Book.

India's ODI side has moved on from Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj and remains a side to be reckoned with. South Africa must envy their array of young talent and the way it has been integrated so seamlessly. They took on India without Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn, and then saw Morne Morkel fail to complete his allocation because of a strained quad. Those who replaced them lack the same presence.

Morkel will undergo a scan on Friday and even if the provisional assessment is that it is only a minor strain, it can still take up to seven days to clear, leaving the disturbing prospect that Steyn and Morkel might miss the next match against Pakistan in a day-night encounter at Edgbaston. Chris Morris, who had a good IPL for Chennai Super Kings, might be a preferred replacement on the grounds that South Africa have been reluctant to risk Vernon Philander's vulnerable physique in the one-day game.

Unable to call on such talent as India, South Africa were forced to gamble. Robin Peterson had never reached 50 in 68 previous ODIs, and only batted in the top six on seven previous occasions, but he was thrown in at No. 3.

It was logical enough. Pre-tournament talk had concentrated on exacting batting conditions in English conditions, with two new balls, but the reality was far more amenable to batsmen. Here was a promoted lower-order batsman playing the ODI innings of his life on a flat pitch under sunny skies. As India's spinners fought back by suffocating South Africa in the middle order, not much seemed to have changed.

If South Africa experimented with their batting line-up, with the ball they played according to pre-set notions. They chose to bowl, said de Villiers, because the stats told them to, even though the forecast indicated that the morning cloud would burn off almost as soon as the match started. They made liberal use of the short ball, said de Villiers, because it was the best way to go against subcontinent batsmen.

"Against a subcontinent team, I still prefer some of the batters to hit us off our lengths instead of hitting us down the ground when we are on the fullish side, especially in English conditions," de Villiers said.

"I don't mind the guys having that aggressive mindset. I am very proud of the way we fought back. We got five wickets in a very short time in the middle overs and I think that was probably the short ball paying off.

"There was 100percent of the pack of wolves out there today. Every time I connected with the team, their energy and intent and awareness was there. Losing Morne Morkel was a shock but the way the boys fought back to restrict them to a chase-able score was a great effort."

Kleinveldt is the wolf that looks as if it has dined out on too much elk and moose. He recently suggested that he had lost 10kgs but, if he had lost it, it looked easy enough to find

But two of the wolves were Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt. Tsotsobe was the wolf who keeps losing his bearings and has to be guided back into the pack before he strays too much. Kleinveldt is the wolf that looks as if it has dined out on too much elk and moose. He recently suggested that he had lost 10kgs but, if he had lost it, it looked easy enough to find.

Kleinveldt is 30 and only made his ODI debut earlier this year. He was probably a little taken aback when the opportunity finally came. It must have seemed "a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world", as the Kinks once sung about Lola. When he did force an error against the short ball, it twice sailed just out of the reach of South Africa's fielders; Shikhar Dhawan was 27 when he cleared Morkel at fine leg and 69 when he pulled over the head of Peterson, well in from the rope at deep square.

At least Ryan McLaren, portrayed as Kallis lite, had a thoroughly decent game. He bowled with more intelligent than most, conceding 70 but dismissing three of India's top six in the process. He even bowled a yorker - such a rarity it almost amounted to insubordination.

He then made an unbeaten 71 at No. 8 to take South Africa within 26 runs, a more respectable outcome than seemed had likely when Morkel limped out at No. 11 with South Africa still 75 shy of their target. South Africa accepted that it was a calculated risk for Morkel to bat, but if they are to qualify, it might now come down to net run rate and the 48 runs added in the last 7.1 overs, seemingly with no damage done in the process, was a rewarding outcome.

Without two disastrous run outs - first Peterson, later David Miller, potentially destructive but run out without facing a ball - South Africa would have got closer than many expected. At 155 for 2 around midway, they were in the match; at 188 for 6, with Miller and Faf du Plessis standing at the same end, discussing who had been run out, they were out of the match.

"Miscommunication in the heat of battle," de Villiers called it. "The run outs cost us dearly today." He smiled, but it was the smile of the wannabe leader of a wolf pack. The rabbits in Bute Park would have been best advised to remain out of sight if South Africa's captain fancied creeping through a gap in the hedge for a late-night stroll

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | June 6, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    I still think SA are a good team. Obviously, as an Indian supporter I am proud and pleased with the way the Indian team beat them. This tournament is a short one. Any early wins can almost guarantee a place in the knock out stages. I feel SA are placing too much emphasis on Steyn. He's human and there could be periods in a team's life when a star player misses out. Steyn is not new to injuries. SA fans will do well to remember how Steyn's career earlier was interrupted by injuries. Being a fast bowler isn't easy in modern day cricket. Which is why SA need to think about alternatives. Sadly, apart from Morkel and to some extent Tsotsobe, they don't have a world class fast bowler. SA could still win the next 2 games so all is not over for the Proteas.

  • POSTED BY CrickFan82 on | June 9, 2013, 17:25 GMT

    " Kleinveldt is the wolf that looks as if it has dined out on too much elk and moose. He recently suggested that he had lost 10kgs but, if he had lost it, it looked easy enough to find."

    This was hilarious, i couldnt control my laughter..

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | June 8, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    You win some and lose some. SA have a young team and obviously miss some of their stalwarts. A fact that has come come out is that they need to give the youngsters a chance. Injuries are part and parcel of the game. India had so many injuries in their last test tour to ENgland. Many are asking where Philander is, I think I last heard he was injured and is nearly ready to play. So lets give SA a chance....They did play well against India, but left things too late.

  • POSTED BY on | June 8, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    That was a great win for India.Did anyone noticed the change in technique of Rohit sharma, it was a masterpiece from Fletcher.The forward push allowed rohit to play the pull shot so easlily.I know Rohit has been a good player of short bowling but he was quite special against SA.

  • POSTED BY on | June 8, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    A great win for india, though all is not lost for SA. agreed, d south african bolwers were way off mark but credit should b given 2 indian openers esp rohit who was promoted up d order. d very first over morkel bowled, india could have been 2 down, but credit 2 rohit,who played d over so well. later he opened up with a gorgeous coverdrive & six at point 2 open d flood gates. Agreed d pitch turned out easy in later overs, but it was india winning d match rather than SA losing as it is made out 2 b.

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    Somebody please explain what is wrong with Vernon Philander??? Why he is not playing in ODI's?

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 12:47 GMT

    come on ladies.. SA are a great team and they will do better in next games. All isn't lost for them they just encountered India team ticking..

  • POSTED BY Chak-De-India-Deux on | June 7, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    Great match - India played well overall and ABD batted like a beauty till the brain-freeze. McLaren looks like the real deal.

    @Peter4135: World Cup team - Current Team 1. Tendulkar - Dhavan 2. Shewag - Rohit / Murli 3. Ghambir - Kholi 4. Kholi - Karthik / Rohit 5. Yuvraj - Raina 6. Dhoni - Dhoni 7. Yusuf / Irfan / Raina - Jadeja 8. Khan - Yadav 9. Bhajji - Ashwin 10. Munaf - Bhuvneshwar 11. Nehra - Ishant

    Only two regular players from WC team (Kholi and Dhoni) and one floater in Raina. Except for Dhoni, Kholi and Raina are batting at a different order. However you have to give credit (especially to a sub-continent team) to the Indian management that they have dropped players that won the WC, esp since in our culture people get selected on reputation.

    The heart of this team is 28 or below (Dhoni is 31 and Rohit is 30), I would call that 'young'? What's your point? Be objective and not a hater, seriously.

  • POSTED BY rachits on | June 7, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    @peter4135: the same young talent that beat SA, won the 2 warm up games, whitewashed aus 4-0...yup, that very same young talent

  • POSTED BY SurlyCynic on | June 7, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    The bowling was some of the worst I've seen from SA in an ODI. Tsotsobe and Kleinveldt were terrible and both looked unfit. Tsotsobe is also a liability with the bat and in the field, but at least in the past he has performed and offers left arm variation. Kleinveldt, on the other hand, is the worst ODI bowler ever to play for SA. How he got into the team ahead of the likes of Morris, Philander and all the other bowlers in SA is a mystery to me.

    With Steyn and Morkel both out it looks like he may play the rest of the tournament too so things will only get worse. At least it's a short tournament so the pain will soon be over.

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | June 6, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    I still think SA are a good team. Obviously, as an Indian supporter I am proud and pleased with the way the Indian team beat them. This tournament is a short one. Any early wins can almost guarantee a place in the knock out stages. I feel SA are placing too much emphasis on Steyn. He's human and there could be periods in a team's life when a star player misses out. Steyn is not new to injuries. SA fans will do well to remember how Steyn's career earlier was interrupted by injuries. Being a fast bowler isn't easy in modern day cricket. Which is why SA need to think about alternatives. Sadly, apart from Morkel and to some extent Tsotsobe, they don't have a world class fast bowler. SA could still win the next 2 games so all is not over for the Proteas.

  • POSTED BY CrickFan82 on | June 9, 2013, 17:25 GMT

    " Kleinveldt is the wolf that looks as if it has dined out on too much elk and moose. He recently suggested that he had lost 10kgs but, if he had lost it, it looked easy enough to find."

    This was hilarious, i couldnt control my laughter..

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | June 8, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    You win some and lose some. SA have a young team and obviously miss some of their stalwarts. A fact that has come come out is that they need to give the youngsters a chance. Injuries are part and parcel of the game. India had so many injuries in their last test tour to ENgland. Many are asking where Philander is, I think I last heard he was injured and is nearly ready to play. So lets give SA a chance....They did play well against India, but left things too late.

  • POSTED BY on | June 8, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    That was a great win for India.Did anyone noticed the change in technique of Rohit sharma, it was a masterpiece from Fletcher.The forward push allowed rohit to play the pull shot so easlily.I know Rohit has been a good player of short bowling but he was quite special against SA.

  • POSTED BY on | June 8, 2013, 5:59 GMT

    A great win for india, though all is not lost for SA. agreed, d south african bolwers were way off mark but credit should b given 2 indian openers esp rohit who was promoted up d order. d very first over morkel bowled, india could have been 2 down, but credit 2 rohit,who played d over so well. later he opened up with a gorgeous coverdrive & six at point 2 open d flood gates. Agreed d pitch turned out easy in later overs, but it was india winning d match rather than SA losing as it is made out 2 b.

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    Somebody please explain what is wrong with Vernon Philander??? Why he is not playing in ODI's?

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 12:47 GMT

    come on ladies.. SA are a great team and they will do better in next games. All isn't lost for them they just encountered India team ticking..

  • POSTED BY Chak-De-India-Deux on | June 7, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    Great match - India played well overall and ABD batted like a beauty till the brain-freeze. McLaren looks like the real deal.

    @Peter4135: World Cup team - Current Team 1. Tendulkar - Dhavan 2. Shewag - Rohit / Murli 3. Ghambir - Kholi 4. Kholi - Karthik / Rohit 5. Yuvraj - Raina 6. Dhoni - Dhoni 7. Yusuf / Irfan / Raina - Jadeja 8. Khan - Yadav 9. Bhajji - Ashwin 10. Munaf - Bhuvneshwar 11. Nehra - Ishant

    Only two regular players from WC team (Kholi and Dhoni) and one floater in Raina. Except for Dhoni, Kholi and Raina are batting at a different order. However you have to give credit (especially to a sub-continent team) to the Indian management that they have dropped players that won the WC, esp since in our culture people get selected on reputation.

    The heart of this team is 28 or below (Dhoni is 31 and Rohit is 30), I would call that 'young'? What's your point? Be objective and not a hater, seriously.

  • POSTED BY rachits on | June 7, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    @peter4135: the same young talent that beat SA, won the 2 warm up games, whitewashed aus 4-0...yup, that very same young talent

  • POSTED BY SurlyCynic on | June 7, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    The bowling was some of the worst I've seen from SA in an ODI. Tsotsobe and Kleinveldt were terrible and both looked unfit. Tsotsobe is also a liability with the bat and in the field, but at least in the past he has performed and offers left arm variation. Kleinveldt, on the other hand, is the worst ODI bowler ever to play for SA. How he got into the team ahead of the likes of Morris, Philander and all the other bowlers in SA is a mystery to me.

    With Steyn and Morkel both out it looks like he may play the rest of the tournament too so things will only get worse. At least it's a short tournament so the pain will soon be over.

  • POSTED BY mukesh_LOVE.cricket on | June 7, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    SA looks a very one dimensional side , they came with a plan in mind and was mindlessly following it even though it was clearly not working. bowling short to sub continental batsmen is not bad tactic but they were doing it with guys like tsotsobe and Kleinveldt who simply don't have the pace to trouble anyone.

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 7:44 GMT

    Worst South African side to ever arrive at a tournament. As if they're not weak enough on paper, they seem completely underprepared, can't bowl, can't field, can't catch, can't stump, can't bat, can't keep their wickets. Only Mclaren shows any interest in being there. At least by next week they'll be home and we'll be rid of Kirsten and hopefully AB gives the captaincy to Faf and washes his hands of this mess, so he can focus on just being our best player again and not all things to all men.

  • POSTED BY TKM-terrors on | June 7, 2013, 6:53 GMT

    First of all SAF's approach to chase was completely wrong. 331 of this decade is equivalent to 250-260 of previous decade . In this T20 era , it is not as tough as you think. Indians are successfully chasing 300+ in recent days bcos of their approach largely thanks to Virat who anchors and then explode. You need not explode from ball 1 when u chase anything less than 350. As a captain , I will be happy to have my opposition at 200-6 rather than 155-2 at the end of 30 overs when i have to defend 331. SAF committed a blunder by sending Peterson at top of order. You need an anchor like Kohli at no 3 not Pieterson . Your target is 331 . Not 438. This would have been my batting order in yesterday's match . Amla,FAF,Ingram,Duminy,ABD,Miller,Peterson,Mclaren,Kleinveldt,Morkel and Tsotsobe. You need to accelerate and have wickets at the end. When you have players like AB, Miller, it is important to keep wickets till the end.

  • POSTED BY CricketMaan on | June 7, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    @Mueeb_Dawood: We too missed Viru, GG, Yuvi, Bhajji, Zhaeer that have been pillars our ODIs, this team has Bhuvi, Uymesh that have played 25 ODIs together which is less that Ryan and Lonwo. The inablity of Indian bowling (for decades) to get the last pair is the only reason for the low margin.

  • POSTED BY gibbs.175 on | June 7, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    When KAllis not available they should call "Elgar "Morris ....1 Amla, Elgar ,Ab ,Duminy, Miller /Ingram, Du, Morris, Peterson ,Mclaren, Dale, Sobe

    Why and who call Rory.....completely flop player?????

  • POSTED BY AB_DeVilliers on | June 7, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    I won't be too concerned. We missed four regular team members, bowled shockingly, and yet India only beat us by 20+ runs with Jedeja being the sole difference in the match. That aside, have to love the wolfpack comment in relation to The Hangover haha. Kleinveldt for Zack Galifinakis? Morne Morkel for Stu?

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 5:44 GMT

    @peter4135 is that a serious question? dhawan, karthik, bhuvaneshwar kumar and umesh yadav have each played only a handlful of ODIs..

  • POSTED BY peter4135 on | June 7, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    What young Indian talent are you talking about here?

  • POSTED BY himanshu.team on | June 7, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    Poor deviliers. Now he will be made fun of everywhere he goes for his 'pack of wolves' remark. SA can very well be that pack, but the pack needs leadership of Smith, Exprience and perseverance of Kalis and speed and bounce of Steyn and Morkel. Other than these only ABDV and Amla are the other fearsome wolves in this pack. Rest are rather timid harmless creatues wanting to be fearsome someday. I feel sorry for him as he two top batsmen and two top bowlers (in fact 3 if we consider Morkel) are taken out. More importantly Kallis only occupies one slot in the team but acts as a top batter and bowler both. So the side is vulnerable. In the long run too SA have to take care of this fact. Kallis will not get any younger nither will Smith. Fast bowlers tend to pick up injuries rather regularly. The bench is really not upto the mark for them. This does not paint a very rosy picture about their future.

  • POSTED BY ram5160 on | June 7, 2013, 2:21 GMT

    Wolfpack ? Maybe they are talking about the guys in "The Hangover". Not sure if South Africa want to emulate them, though it would be fun if you woke up in a strange hotel room drunk & with your captain missing.

  • POSTED BY ODI_BestFormOfCricket on | June 7, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    steyn might be a no1 in tests, but odi is different ball game and he had no big experience in odi internationall will cost them in the remaining matches, saw lot of times he has been choking in important matches bcz of pressure.

  • POSTED BY Jay.Raj on | June 6, 2013, 21:42 GMT

    simple solution to south african current bowling unit. Replace Alfonso Thomas--> Kleinveldt until Steyn comes back.

  • POSTED BY Desihungama on | June 6, 2013, 21:20 GMT

    The CT winner will be like a case of last man standing. Slowly but surely all bowlers participated in IPL are breaking down. Good on Pakistan to get Steyn out for India and good on India to get Morkel out for Pakistan. Who'd thought of that?

  • POSTED BY NP_NY on | June 6, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    Come on now Mr.Hopps. Take it easy on the Saffers. It is a young bunch and they did really miss their stalwarts today. But I am rooting for them to bounce back. 'hope they've sent an SOS to Chris Morris and Vernon Philander. They really need those two and probably Behardien as well.

  • POSTED BY NP_NY on | June 6, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    Come on now Mr.Hopps. Take it easy on the Saffers. It is a young bunch and they did really miss their stalwarts today. But I am rooting for them to bounce back. 'hope they've sent an SOS to Chris Morris and Vernon Philander. They really need those two and probably Behardien as well.

  • POSTED BY Desihungama on | June 6, 2013, 21:20 GMT

    The CT winner will be like a case of last man standing. Slowly but surely all bowlers participated in IPL are breaking down. Good on Pakistan to get Steyn out for India and good on India to get Morkel out for Pakistan. Who'd thought of that?

  • POSTED BY Jay.Raj on | June 6, 2013, 21:42 GMT

    simple solution to south african current bowling unit. Replace Alfonso Thomas--> Kleinveldt until Steyn comes back.

  • POSTED BY ODI_BestFormOfCricket on | June 7, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    steyn might be a no1 in tests, but odi is different ball game and he had no big experience in odi internationall will cost them in the remaining matches, saw lot of times he has been choking in important matches bcz of pressure.

  • POSTED BY ram5160 on | June 7, 2013, 2:21 GMT

    Wolfpack ? Maybe they are talking about the guys in "The Hangover". Not sure if South Africa want to emulate them, though it would be fun if you woke up in a strange hotel room drunk & with your captain missing.

  • POSTED BY himanshu.team on | June 7, 2013, 3:23 GMT

    Poor deviliers. Now he will be made fun of everywhere he goes for his 'pack of wolves' remark. SA can very well be that pack, but the pack needs leadership of Smith, Exprience and perseverance of Kalis and speed and bounce of Steyn and Morkel. Other than these only ABDV and Amla are the other fearsome wolves in this pack. Rest are rather timid harmless creatues wanting to be fearsome someday. I feel sorry for him as he two top batsmen and two top bowlers (in fact 3 if we consider Morkel) are taken out. More importantly Kallis only occupies one slot in the team but acts as a top batter and bowler both. So the side is vulnerable. In the long run too SA have to take care of this fact. Kallis will not get any younger nither will Smith. Fast bowlers tend to pick up injuries rather regularly. The bench is really not upto the mark for them. This does not paint a very rosy picture about their future.

  • POSTED BY peter4135 on | June 7, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    What young Indian talent are you talking about here?

  • POSTED BY on | June 7, 2013, 5:44 GMT

    @peter4135 is that a serious question? dhawan, karthik, bhuvaneshwar kumar and umesh yadav have each played only a handlful of ODIs..

  • POSTED BY AB_DeVilliers on | June 7, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    I won't be too concerned. We missed four regular team members, bowled shockingly, and yet India only beat us by 20+ runs with Jedeja being the sole difference in the match. That aside, have to love the wolfpack comment in relation to The Hangover haha. Kleinveldt for Zack Galifinakis? Morne Morkel for Stu?

  • POSTED BY gibbs.175 on | June 7, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    When KAllis not available they should call "Elgar "Morris ....1 Amla, Elgar ,Ab ,Duminy, Miller /Ingram, Du, Morris, Peterson ,Mclaren, Dale, Sobe

    Why and who call Rory.....completely flop player?????