Tanya's Take

Tanya Aldred

Green, mean and dreary

South Africa should be crowd favourites but it seems their fate to be boring as England - only better

Tanya Aldred

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South Africa maintain their unbeaten record, India v South Africa, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Trent Bridge, June 16, 2009
South Africa are such a good, well-honed, hardworking side, they're not easy to like © Associated Press
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Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20

So it's a couple of surprises, a dark horse and a dead cert in the semi-finals. Not a sponsor's dream, but a tasty Spanish omelette for the rest of us.

There's a bit of peppery swagger and big hitting from West Indies - that's if Chris Gayle can be bothered to rouse himself from his bed. Pakistan throw in some stylish straight talking from the smiling Younis Khan, some unreliable spark and a noble toss of the head from Shahid Afridi, and a pinch or two of controversy from Umar Gul. A blaze of six-hitting adds flavour for Sri Lanka - and a soupcon of Malinga and Murali magic makes a complete dish. And from South Africa? Here's a big fat plate of ruthless professionalism.

South Africa should be the crowd favourites - Sri Lanka, West Indies and Pakistan have all won a world cup. They are famous chokers. Think Lance Klusener and Allan Donald in 1999 and the failure to read the Duckworth-Lewis calculations properly at their own party in 2003. But they fail to get the sympathy vote every time.

Is their curse that they are as boring as England, but better? Their spinners, Johan Botha, Roelof van der Merwe and Jean-Paul Duminy, offer great control, but no eye-watering turn. Their batsmen are strong, unrelenting, but without that certain flash of joie de vivre (they did have an exciting prospect, but he decamped to England some years ago; wonder if he has any regrets as England fail to go through to yet another ICC tournament). On television last night, South Africa were described as a "formidable outfit"; not a phrase to make the heart sing.

Perhaps it is it their very organisation that puts people off - that there is nothing left to chance. The rumour is that Jeremy Snape even plays tapes of ground noises to the players to get them used to barracking crowds. Their fielding is excellent, the throwing superb, the pressure they place on the opposition huge. Maybe they are too big for people to relate to. Perhaps they intimidate too much. Perhaps, like the Roundheads in 1066 And All That, they are wrong but wrepulsive.

Maybe, even, it is their dark history that turns people off, just as colonialism long hung over England. Perhaps it is Hansie Cronje's legacy. Perhaps it is the team's reputation for godliness - which never does goes down very well with the English.

Whichever, they are a very good, well-honed, hardworking side under an intelligent captain. I almost feel sorry for them. As Kermit the Frog once sang so plaintively, its not easy being green.

In the Women's World Cup (please could Charles Colville on Sky Sports stop calling it the "girls' competition"?) England, India, Australia and New Zealand are through to the semi-finals. Interesting that the final four are the teams who have the most funding; whereas in the men's competition, the richer countries have all been knocked out. Is that progress?

RSS FeedTanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian

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Tanya fell in love with cricket during England's Ashes-winning summer of 1985. She went on to be features editor at Wisden Cricket Monthly and a regular-ish contributor to the Guardian. She once hit a six over a sea wall on the Isle of Wight.

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Tanya Aldred Tanya fell in love with cricket during England's Ashes-winning summer of 1985. She went on to be features editor at Wisden Cricket Monthly and a regular-ish contributor to the Guardian. She once hit a six over a sea wall on the Isle of Wight.
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