Pakistan v South Africa, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Colombo September 28, 2012

South Africa upbeat despite defeat


South African captains' reactions to shock defeats have changed recently. With Graeme Smith, it was always fire and ire. He would spit out words defending his team but his eyes would remain cold and empty. With AB de Villiers it's giggle and grin.

So far, de Villiers has decided not to take things as seriously as his predecessor. That may change if South Africa crumble when it really matters. For now, they have only been beaten in a group match and if they perform well enough in their next two, de Villiers' response will look like a masterstroke.

Instead of focusing on his own range of misjudgements - not bowling the spinners out and batting too far down the order himself - de Villiers chose to focus on the half-full side of losing. He used the word "proud," to describe how he felt after South Africa's performance. It was an unusual choice given the ultimate result but not too odd when considered in the context of the defeat.

A South African side of old would likely not have come back into the game three times. They probably would not have been able to get to 133, because they may not have had the middle-order presence of JP Duminy. They probably would have been so spooked by not being able to pick Saeed Ajmal that they would have collapsed for less than 90. They would probably not have the spinners to make early breakthroughs or the gut and heart to take the match into the final few overs. For that, there is reason to be proud.

From a position where South Africa could have lost by an enormous margin, they ended up losing by only two wickets. It may be simply because their opposition was as unpredictable as only Pakistan can be but it may be because they have made small progress, both in the skills department and from a mental perspective.

Robin Peterson, who was one of the bowlers that shoved South Africa back into contention and has been part of the national squad for almost a decade, thinks so. South Africa fought from 28 for 3, to post 133 and that recovery gave them hope that they could win. "I think we had enough runs," he said bullishly, despite South Africa's below-par total. "We thought we had a good chance to defend it but it's not every day that someone scores a special innings like that."

Umar Gul's blitz put the contest back in Pakistan's hands and South Africa could do nothing but acknowledge that he changed the match. That is something they have been unable and perhaps even unwilling to do in the past.

What remains is to place similar importance on their own failings. The batting recovery was admirable but de Villiers may have made a difference if he came in higher up. That could speak to the concept of the floating line-up as a whole, which South Africa have stuck with under Gary Kirsten. Although it has worked for them so far, it adds a degree of unsettledness to the team and digressing from it, to a more traditional looking batting order today could have yielded a different total.

The same can be said for the use of bowlers. They came back exceptionally after Pakistan were off to a flier and pegged them back. To ask that they did it a second time, after Gul's onslaught may have been too much. But to ask that slower bowlers are used on surface that suits them would not be but it was a road South Africa weren't willing to go down.

"Hindsight is always a perfect thing," Peterson said. "AB made the calls and he brought on bowlers that he thought were going to make an impact. It's difficult to say who could have made an impact when but we stuck to our gameplans. Maybe we need to revisit one or two things."

An admission, at least, that some rethinking would not be wasted on them. That may be the third way of responding to defeat: with thought. Instead of anger or frivolity, genuine analysis.

Some will say South Africa choked even though they did not. De Villiers seems to be able to recognise that this defeat was not catastrophic and how he responds will be telling as South Africa aim to map a different course at this event.

It seems as though his players know that, too "We are at a different tournament and we've got another opportunity to get it right," Peterson said. "We are doing things slightly differently behind the scenes and so hopefully things will go better for us."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2012, 9:19 GMT

    Good Lesson for SA, now they should trained how to play against Spin Bowling.

  • Norman on September 29, 2012, 9:16 GMT

    Upbeat? Why, because they've been carrying the dead weight of "golden boy" Albie Morkel? Because their best bowler might have sustained a serious injury which might render him unfit for important upcoming games? Upbeat? Really? That was the most horrible display of death bowling i've seen in a long time. Did they all suddenly lose their ability to bowl the yorker? Yes it was a high pressure situation, but as an international cricketer or any sportsman for that matter, you will seldom find situations that aren't. That was far below par, period. He (Albie) is a serious liability with the ball and his batting leaves much to be desired. Saying that he doesn't get enough time to play himself in is irrelevant because that is what his job is coming in so low down the order. Donald has his work cut out for him, because this could result in disaster.

  • Faisal on September 29, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    I want Abdul Razzaq in Next match.

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    Full credit to Umar Gul..

  • narbavi on September 29, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    @Inducker: Totally wrong, he still is the greatest player ever, you should check his stats, even in t20 you should take a look at some of his performances, this man is colossus!!

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    Yes, it was disappointing, but if this is the only game in which the Proteas (we're not Bokke any more, BokkeForever, live with it) choke then at least we've got it out the way. Now all we have to do is beat Australia and India. Puddysticks. As for the team the next time we play, the first move should be to drop Richard Levi; he fails way more often than he succeeds. Move Jacques up to open - to score 50 off 50 balls and 80 off 70, the way he does so often in IPL cricket - and bring back Faf du Plessis, for his fielding if nothing else. The boy can do the job, and we should stick with him. And, yes, AB should bat higher. We've got Duminy to bolster the lower order

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    I second Uhuu......Luck favours BRAVES...... Everyone was sure ....SA is unable to exert pressure of BIG games....Good Luck fro the rest of the games specially to braves....

  • Syed on September 29, 2012, 6:04 GMT

    Love to c the confidence of SA captain, they fully deserved to be the champs of this tournament otherwise the game has its limitations, no doubt v unlikely win of Pak, but credit must be given to Pak bowling to restrict SA to 133,hope Pak live to their expectation of T20 format which most suit to them as their past t20 performance spoken about, all the best to Pak against India & SA for rest of tournament, both r my favorites, both r really in poll of death.

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2012, 5:22 GMT

    Me as a cricket lover , I love cricket & Pakistani Cricket Then South Africans Cricket, SA playing cricket by profession but we Pakistanies playing cricket as a Passion, thats a difference between Pak & SA. AB doing good for his team and for his Country. no one capton never doing wrong things against his team. SA win all the match mean if total balls are 240. SA palys well 230 balls, But 10 balls which Gull plays thats the PASSION which i want to told you all. Critisizing someone is not good in Gentelman game. Permoting every player is great attitude towreds the great cricket game.

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2012, 5:06 GMT

    So, When everyone in this world is afraid of Steyn, Morkel and co. Then Umar gul showed the way how to hit them out of ground. How many players in this world can paly same innings against S.A as gul did, I think no one can play in such a pressure that gul did. Kallis, Amla and co don't know how to play Pak bowlers. Pakistan has shut the mouth of their haters by exposing S.A batting and S.A bowling and also lazy amla fielding.

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