Plays of the Day April 14, 2007

Butter fingers and de Villiers's starting troubles



Chippy, chirpy and cunning Craig McMillan took three crucial wickets, and showed the South Africans just why he should never be underestimated © Getty Images
Drop of the Day Mk 1

Ashwell Prince's parry at square-leg had all the makings of a match-sealing moment. When you're defending 193 and the batsman of the tournament, Scott Styris, gives a chance while still in single figures, there's really no forgiving the culpable fielder. In mitigation, the ball was whipped through square leg with such power that it pulled up just yards inside the rope, but on the other hand, South Africa's reputation in one-day cricket has long been based upon their superlative fielding. At 54 for 2 it was a vital opportunity squandered.

Drop of the Day Mk 2

Ditto, with knobs on. Mark Boucher will need little reminding of the last time New Zealand and South Africa met in the World Cup. At Centurion in 2002-03, he dropped Stephen Fleming on 52 - a sitter of a chance off Jacques Kallis - and Fleming went on to make a fantastic match-winning 134 not out. Two weeks later, the hosts had been ejected from their own party. Today's chance was tougher - a thin top-edge that a leaping Boucher could only parry onto his nose - but the impact on his team-mates was very much the same.

Drop of the Day Mk 3

Ok, so it's cruel to labour the point, but déjà vu is a powerful thing, especially when poor old Herschelle is involved. For eight painful years, he's had to live with the memory of that aberration at Headingley in the 1999 World Cup, and like a particularly rubbish punchline, the joke gets wearier every time it is repeated. So, all together now, for (surely?) one last time: "You just dropped the World Cup, Hersch!" Of course, he could well cling onto a blinder to seal victory over England next week, and all will be forgiven. (At least, until the fourth-placed South Africans take on Australia in the St Lucia semi-final...)

Call of the Day

Win the toss and bowl - it's a tactic that's been fraught with danger down the years. But today it worked a treat for Fleming, who unleashed his seamers in drizzly overcast conditions that were more Queenstown, Otago, than Queen's Park, Grenada. Shane Bond was magnificent, James Franklin was rejuvenated, and at 66 for 2 at the end of the Powerplays, the pattern of the match had been established. Who knows what South Africa might have achieved if Graeme Smith had called correctly, but their decision to omit their leading wicket-taker and leading swing bowler, Charl Langeveldt, suggests they were not banking on bowling first.

Bowling spell of the Day

If a cricketer could be designed to get under the skin of the rigidly orthodox South Africans, then he would doubtless look and sound something like Craig McMillan - a chippy, chirpy little irritant of a character who tempted three of South Africa's finest into wicket-surrendering indiscretions. McMillan once got the better of Steve Waugh in a bouncer offensive, so his bowling is not to be underestimated. That, however, is just what Gibbs, Ashwell Prince and Boucher all did, as South Africa crashed from 128 for 3 to 149 for 6. Each wicket was celebrated with double clenched fists and a cheeky knowing grin, the sort of reaction that doubtless made the incoming batsman want to smack him even further ...

Duck of the Day

How good would AB de Villiers be if he could start every innings on 1? Unfortunately for him and for South Africa, that initial notch in the scorebook is proving infuriatingly hard to come by. Today was the fourth time in eight World Cup innings that he had been dismissed without scoring, and on none of those occasions has he survived for more than six balls. When he does get stuck in, however, woe betide the opposition. His other efforts have been 62 from 45 balls against Scotland; 92 from 70 against Australia; 15 from 39 against Bangladesh, and last week's outrageous 146 from 130 against West Indies.

Innings of the Day

Sporting a beard that makes him look like the celebrity chef, Anthony Worrall-Thompson, Styris is absolutely cooking in this World Cup. Today he produced his fifth half-century in eight innings. Three of those have been unbeaten scores of 80 or more, including the recent 111 not out against Sri Lanka. He is one of only three players to have made 400 runs for the competition (Jacques Kallis and Matthew Hayden are the other two), although his average of 108.75 is unsurpassed. And if that's not useful enough, he's also grabbed eight vital breakthroughs with his medium-pacers. It's not a bad time to hit the form of your life.

Number Crunching of the Day

The calculators were working overtime in the press-box today (at least, for those who have such things - one chap was too busy clacking away on his 1970s typewriter). But by the end of the New Zealand run-chase, the numbers were stark. South Africa's net run-rate, that issue that Smith insisted was totally under control, is now drifting uneasily at a measly - 0.2097. That means that England (NRR +0.079) are as good as through if they win in Barbados on Tuesday. It'll be a big "if" on the bouncier Bridgetown wicket but, should that happen, South Africa's only salvation would then come if West Indies delivered a judgment of biblical proportions in England's own final game next Saturday.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo