ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

South Africa's early World Cup exit

Flawed middle order cost South Africa - Mickey Arthur

Daniel Brettig

March 31, 2011

Comments: 66 | Text size: A | A

Johan Botha and JP Duminy prepare to have a bat in the nets, Dhaka, March 23, 2011
Johan Botha and JP Duminy were not the ideal players for crucial middle order spots in South Africa's World Cup team © Getty Images
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South Africa's 2011 World Cup campaign was fundamentally flawed by a suspect middle order, former coach Mickey Arthur has said. Considered tournament favourites after a mostly storming run through the pool phase, South Africa crumbled under the pressure of a run chase against doughty New Zealand in their quarter-final, exposing all the wounds of past failures in knockout events.

Watching from Perth where he is now the coach of Western Australia's state team, Arthur reasoned that the decision to choose JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Johan Botha in the middle had cost his old side dearly.

"People underestimate how difficult it is [in the middle order in the subcontinent]," Arthur told ESPNCricinfo. "Five, six and seven are your crucial, crucial batting positions in one day games, especially on the subcontinent, because you're invariably starting against a soft ball and invariably starting against spin.

"In the engine room at five, six and seven we had JP Duminy who's still a young, maturing player, Faf du Plessis in his first year and Johan Botha who is a bowler first and then a batter, and I think that cost us at the end of the day.

"In 2006-07 [when Australia won the Champions Trophy in India and the World Cup in the Caribbean], Michael Hussey was down at seven for them. "In those conditions five, six and seven end up winning you games, and we didn't have any experience there."

Arthur's view was supported in the aftermath of the match by Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain. "We were desperate to get into that middle to lower order; that was our whole game plan, do whatever we can to get down there," Vettori said. "It was always about getting past AB de Villiers. Their top four has proven themselves over a long, long time. They've got fantastic records, and I thought if we could break through that, particularly getting down to No. 6 and Botha at No. 7 meant they had a longish tail."

Given that the captain, Graeme Smith, and the coach, Corrie van Zyl, have both chosen to give up their posts after the Cup, it will now be up to yet another leadership axis to pick the lock that seems to separate South African sides from Cup success.

"Until South Africa win an ICC event it's always going to be there," said Arthur. "The monkey's almost become a gorilla now and until we win an ICC event it's always going to be there I'm afraid. They've just got to get out there and do it. We've always been the most prepared and I remember in my five years, we could never, ever nail it right at the end, and that to me was one of my regrets.

"We got to No.1 in the world in both forms of the game over a period of time because we played the most consistent cricket, but there always seemed to be something missing when it became a knockout game, and I just can't put my finger on it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Dummy4 on (April 3, 2011, 19:39 GMT)

The Middle order is fine. in a match chasing 220 one of the top three need to bat 35 overs even if they bat slowely. Smith's poor form is a poison that spread. Each world cup we blame the middle order but basmen 1-4 should bat 30-35 of the overs. SA do not have a killer instinct. They let teams make combacks. Amla tried to be agressive and seal the match but went out freakishly. Kalis tried but played a poor shot. We can never win when it maters couldn't win against india for the number 1 test spot. Couldn't win against aus when we beat them at home for the number 1 spot. They need to learn to step on the oposition throat and keep stepping till they are dead. THE TRULY GREAT SIDES(1975-1985 WI and 1998-2004 Ausies) never showed mercy or weakness.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 3, 2011, 7:43 GMT)

Like arthur said, South Africa needed some experience in the middle order to steady the ship and let the young guys play around that experienced player. South Africa need to be less serious and just go out there and win. They have the talent..

Posted by ashok on (April 3, 2011, 7:35 GMT)

Pressure handling is the main thing which SA will have to take training from great teams like india...

Posted by Minhaj on (April 1, 2011, 19:13 GMT)

South Africa must work extremely hard to find solutions to play under crucial times. They simply cannot play comfortably under crisis moments. I quite agree with Mickey Arthur for the analysis he has made. South Africa's middle order batsmen were all good but they were too young to cope up with harsh conditions.

Posted by Chintan on (April 1, 2011, 16:35 GMT)

I hate super six idea it just not for world cup event. If you think the team is world champion then prove it by winning under pressure. Same think happens in football World cup. And you know in US they have playoff series but that just doesn't have place in World cups.

Posted by Minhaj on (April 1, 2011, 15:54 GMT)

South Africa must work extremely hard to find solutions to play under crucial times. They simply cannot play comfortably under crisis moments. I quite agree with Mickey Arthur for the analysis he has made. South Africa's middle order batsmen were all good but they were too young to cope up with harsh conditions.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 14:15 GMT)

I agree totally with Mickey. No team has ever won the world cup with young inexperienced players in their side. A middle order of Kemp, Boucher Morkel at 6,7 and 8 respectively would have done it for us. SA had 8 bowlers in this game v new Zeland. What a joke. I think the selectors stuffed up. I dont think they knew which spinner to drop.

Posted by dj on (April 1, 2011, 8:31 GMT)

Yeah Arthur is pretty much spot on . He made a really great point about Gillie in the Champions Trophy . If you look throughout this tournament , everytime massive pressure has been put on our bowlers they have come back exceptionally and produced the goods however our batsmen have faltered in every crunch situation they were placed in.

Posted by Varnendra on (April 1, 2011, 7:22 GMT)

I think I have the explanation. If you have 3 good players you should bat them at 1, 4 and 7; evenly sparsed. If you bat them at 1,2 and 3 it is very wrong; it gives the opposition actually an illusion that if it gets past the 3 top players it can win; so when it actually happens the opposition plays with unusual confidence as Kiwis did to strangle SA; the illusion transforms into confidence. If Mark Boucher played at no 7 it would have been an India v SA final tomorrow. It is unfair and heartbreaking to see hardworking men loose; SA must win to make the world a fair place.

Posted by V on (April 1, 2011, 7:09 GMT)

One thing i want to add!! SA are good unit in all aspects of cricket..no second thought.. But they have to admit they are under pressure whenever they go for a tournament.. They have to keep themselves cool but atleast avoiding the media for the obvious reasons.. I remember that Amla faced the media before IND match and announced that 'pressure is on India'.. Kallis also echoed same... Again they used these phrases always against the opponents throughtout the tournament as if they have come for some family outing (excursion!!). But no team give them a cent cause everyone knows who feels pressure by expressing like this!!! This is an old ploy invented by OZ to play mind games in which they are good at atleast in recent past (Rember the Tim neilson echoed the same before IND v AUS match). My sincere advice to proteas is PLS avoid these media mind games cause it indirectly influencing YOU to prove that you are right. play ur natural game & avoid media is the best want to WIN in future

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Daniel BrettigClose
Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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