Philander spurs SA to 42-run win
An indifferent batting performance and an inexperienced bowling attack proved more than enough for South Africa to roll over Ireland in a rain-hit one-off ODI at the Civil Service Club in Stormont. Perhaps rusty from not having played any cricket since the World Cup, South Africa struggled to 173 for 4 against a disciplined bowling attack but didn't need to be at their best in the field to clinch victory by 42 runs.
After a delay of close to five hours, owing to heavy rain, the game got underway on the same pitch as the Ireland-India game on Saturday with South Africa being put in to bat. The energetic AB de Villiers got them off to a racy start with an opening stand of 75 in 12.3 overs, but the innings slowed after his dismissal for 40 from 35 balls. South Africa looked on course for 200 at that point, but some slow batting from Morne van Wyk and Jacques Kallis, on a sluggish pitch, kept Ireland in the game. van Wyk's 52, his maiden ODI fifty in his comeback innings after four years, proved the highest score for his side, but it took 84 deliveries and he relied on two shots, the cut and the flick.
With Kyle McCallan bowling a superb line with his fast, flat offspin, and Trent Johnston keeping van Wyk quiet, Kallis withdrew into a shell during the middle overs. Though he hit one huge six over long-on during his 47-ball 46, his failure to hit out against a very inexperienced bowling attack kept Ireland in the game.
The best bowling came from Australia-born Alex Cusack, recently qualified to play for his adopted country, whose 3 for 15 on debut checked South Africa's progress. He took a fantastic catch on the boundary to cut de Villiers short, and then removed van Wyk, Herschelle Gibbs and Kallis in succession.
Defending their total, South Africa's new-ball bowlers struggled to get early breakthroughs and it needed a moment of Irish misfortune to snap a plucky 45-run opening partnership - plays and misses meshed with positive nudges and flicks - between William Porterfield and Kenny Carroll.
Having defended one from Dale Steyn off the back foot, Carroll's right leg slipped and hit the stumps. Clearly embarrassed at having gotten a wicket like that, Steyn picked up Thimus Fourie three balls later but was then sent for duty on the boundary.
Vernon Philander, on ODI debut, gave himself a 22nd-birthday gift when he forced Porterfield to edge to a leaping Mark Boucher behind the stumps. Niall O'Brien played all over a nasty inswinger and Philander had his second in no time. Dominick Joyce played a few pleasing drives before edging Kallis and barring Cusack (36 not-out) the rest of the order didn't put up much of a fight as Philander finished with 4 for 12.
A few close shouts for leg before aside, South Africa were let down by a lack of penetration at the start. Makhaya Ntini, in need of match practice, was generous with the extras and owed his solitary wicket in his second spell to JP Duminy's brilliance sliding down at long-on. Steyn, called back to the squad after a successful stint with Warwickshire, took a while to hit his straps and looked a shadow of the bowler he's capable of being. Thandi Tshabalala, the sole spinner in South Africa's squad for this tour, looked pedestrian on ODI debut, serving up one too many full tosses. Philander proved the most successful bowler, but is likely to make way for the likes of Andre Nel, Andrew Hall or Charl Langeveldt.
In the end South Africa will be happy they won in the absence of some key players, but they'll need to pull their socks up ahead of the three-match contest against India coming up here.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo