South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd T20I, Centurion March 3, 2013

We were outplayed in the field - du Plessis


After a defeat as dramatic as the one South Africa suffered, identifying positives is like looking for stars in a murky sky shrouded by clouds. It's not a fruitless endeavour because if you spot one it may lighten more than just the velvet overhead, but it is a tough one because there are so few.

Faf du Plessis found one. "Probably the only thing was AB [de Villiers]," he said. "We would expect AB to work anywhere in a line-up because he has got the skill to attack the bowlers but it was good to see him for well in the opening position. That was the one thing that worked for us today."

Having found the one bright spot, which he was asked to do early in his press engagement, du Plessis was more than ready to front up to South Africa's failings. To blanket them as everything other than de Villiers' 36 would be too simplistic.

It was a combination of being outplayed by two individuals, inexperience, poor bowling and panicking with bat in hand that conspired to bring South Africa down. The last of those is something they have been through before and even though this time they were skittled out for their lowest T20 total, it was the area du Plessis gave the least attention to.

"We know that the shorter the version of the game, the more one individual can win it," he said. "With Umar Gul, it was just a case of us trying to win the game and going hard at the run rate upfront. I think it was definitely [Mohammad] Hafeez's 86 that changed the game for them.

"When a team posts close to 200, you know it is going to take something very special from your batsmen. One guy is going to have to score close to 100 for you to be in contention to win." Collectively, South Africa only just managed that. Their last nine wickets managed about half of it.

Before the Powerplay had ended, South Africa knew they had lost the match. Focusing on that would not give proper attention to where they were actually defeated and du Plessis believed that was on the field. "There was a time when I thought we were giving Hafeez too many options and he was scoring on both sides of the wicket."

He was also finding space easily with South Africa's fielders unable to cover enough ground and the bowlers offering lengths that allowed Hafeez to pick his spot.

Bar Lonwabo Tsotsobe's first two overs and the occasional good ball from Rory Kleinveldt, the seamers lacked variety and used the slower ball too infrequently, instead hoping their usual approach would work. Du Plessis hopes they have realised it does not. "The bowlers need to practice different varieties. The days of bowling back of a length to a team in South Africa are gone now," he said.

With a pitch du Plessis said was "basically a road," the gap between the teams was narrowed. The conclusion he made was that, in neutral conditions and in the shorter format, "Pakistan's skill is better than ours."

He has with him a young squad who do not often play as a unit. They lack cohesion and the spunk to make up for it. Du Plessis believes the only way it will change is by playing more and being open-minded. "We would like to play more T20 cricket to learn and improve, especially improving our skills. Batsman need to have more variety in shots, bowlers need to bowl more slower balls."

The main focus is on the World T20 in Bangladesh in 2014 and those tactics will be needed there. South Africa will also need a strong spin contingent, something they obviously lacked today. Robin Peterson and Justin Ontong gave away 58 runs in their overs to negate themselves as viable options for du Plessis to turn to. "Our spin department will admit their four overs were not good. There were too many bad balls," he said.

With neither the seamers nor the slower bowlers able to tie things up, du Plessis found it a difficult day to be a leader. "The pressure of T20 cricket is more than any other cricket because things happen so fast," he said. "I just tried to keep everybody calm."

South Africa's next T20 match is in July when they tour Sri Lanka for a limited-overs visit. The sporadic nature of fixtures makes it difficult for du Plessis to have as much time with his team as he would like.

He can only hope experiences in the domestic competition, which is on-going, and at leagues like the IPL will help their development before they reconvene. "My game improved hugely after the IPL just because I was playing more cricket. The more you play, the better you get," he said. It's a thought that may lessen the acidity of a loss that left South Africa's limited-overs approach exposed, again.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muttee on March 6, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    TommytuckerSafa: Thats whey we have Zim beating Australia in WC T20, England losing to Ireland. Are these fair reflections on Aus and Eng abilities - no.

    Well, your comment is just too funny, you think they have abilities then why didnt they use those abilities to win those matches? the team who played better on the day wins and that's where a true champion team will emerge winners. saying t20 doesn't matter or shouldn't be an international fixture is just ridiculous. do you even know how many new cricket spectators are born due to this format. each and every single format requires its own set of skills and each of them are important in their own regard. just because ur team lose doesnt mean u should stop playing the format. ridiculous

  • Masood on March 5, 2013, 17:04 GMT

    As a Pakistan fan, I'm just glad to have something to smile about. I'd rather we won the Test Series tbh but I'll take this rather than nothing.

  • des on March 5, 2013, 9:11 GMT

    It's great to see how excited Pakistan fans are about a T20 victory, well done. But funny how they still talk about how England were 'humiliated' in the UAE, even though England won the ODI and T20 series.

    So which results are really remembered for longer?

  • Tshego on March 5, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    LOL... the Pakistani's were really waiting for this. Good win i must say, enjoy it. The test series is over so stop referring to it, SA is #1 for a reason and everybody knows they belong there. The shorter the format, the closer the gap in quality. Go figure

  • Dummy4 on March 5, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    People talking about inexperience SA side in T20 should also recall inexperienced Pak side in tests.

  • Amjad on March 5, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    LOL, not a huge fan of T20's but saying that T20's doesn't require some sort of skill would be like burying your head in sand. T20's does require a set of skills, in bowling, you need variations but with pinpoint precision which the SA bowlers tried but most of them ended in a dozen or so utterly embarrassing half trackers which were duly hammered as you'd expect from a champion T20 side. Now, when England were the No1 in tests and T20 champs, Swann said something similar, wana know what? get rid of the ODI's. No wonder the Proteas wana get rid of T20's but here's what the proteas should really be asking themselves, why is it ok for steyn to play non stop IPL for 2 months and RESTED while his national side bearing the national colors is being hammered away. hmm

  • Dhumper on March 4, 2013, 19:51 GMT

    Faf's comment: "The conclusion he made was that, in neutral conditions and in the shorter format, "Pakistan's skill is better than ours" Correction - remove 'shorter format' from this comment. In neutral conditions we do seem to have better skills. See you in October although those would be spin conditions!

  • greig on March 4, 2013, 19:19 GMT

    I agree with Simon Doull from new zealand and other respected ex-players. T20 should not be an international format of cricket and only used at domestic level. This is ensure the survival of ODI and Test cricket. People getting excited about T20 victories or silverware need to get a grip, its easy to hide technical faults in this format and creates a more level playing field for weaker or minnow teams. Thats whey we have Zim beating Australia in WC T20, England losing to Ireland. Are these fair reflections on Aus and Eng abilities - no.

  • Jawwad on March 4, 2013, 18:52 GMT

    @fast_gun - lol, Those silverware last between 2 and 4 years. Long enough to cherish. ICC test mace? get new rankings in all the time. Now, beating opposition in your backyard and then outright refusal to tour their backyard on whatever pretext does not in any way make you a champion. Tell Steyn to try take a wicket in Faisalabad. Let's see how soon he breaks.

  • Dummy4 on March 4, 2013, 18:38 GMT

    Yes we played rubbish. Sure they need better selection, more practice, blah. But like @fastgun says, let's not get too excited and remember the important silverware - the test mace.