How quickly fortunes change in the game of cricket. Till a few days back, India and New Zealand were being criticised over their shambolic performances in the Tests. Over the last two days though these very teams have made strong comebacks, defeating England and South Africa respectively. While India’s turnaround isn’t that surprising since they possess an excellent at home in one-dayers against England, Kiwis’ fight back has been nothing short of sensational. They had never won an ODI series in South Africa before, and the way they collapsed in the Tests, it seemed they had no chance in the one-dayers as well.
The substantial aspect of their game, which has led them to his remarkable riposte, has been their undying spirit, which came to fore during both the games, with the bat, the ball and, like always, in the field. Man-to-man, New Zealand were the weaker of the two sides, but as a team they were better than the Proteas, as a result of which they could scuttle South Africa’s individual brilliance, and end up on top. There were occasions when the game seemed out of New Zealand’s grasp, but they pulled things back in unbelievable fashion.
There were surprise heroes for the Kiwis in both the matches, which would gladden them no end. In the first ODI, James Franklin literally pulled them out of a certain defeat by playing a knock of amazing maturity. With only two wickets left and plenty of runs to get, Franklin showed great character in batting with the tail and, in the end did the unthinkable. The New Zealand tail must also be complimented for the manner in which they stuck it out with Franklin under the tensest of situations, not to forget the contribution of debutant Mitchell McClenaghan with the ball earlier in the day. It was just the morale booster the Kiwis needed after the Test-bashing.
Buoyed by their win, the visitors came up with a more polished effort at Kimberly on Tuesday. Kane Williamson proved why he is rated so highly, with a century that will give him the much-needed self-belief that has been lacking in some of his previous knocks. While Williamson’s individual brilliance was noteworthy, their performance in the field was even more remarkable. Getting five run outs is something only a great fielding side can achieve. The effort in the field also demonstrated how hungry they were to win this series, hurt by the Test loss.
Without taking anything away from the Kiwis, it must be said that South Africa have looked disinterested in the ODIs. They have been concentrating very hard on their five-day game. At the same time, their ODI performances have suffered. In the first one-dayer, they had the game all but won, but couldn’t dislodge the tail and in the second match, they gave away an unpredicted five wickets to run outs. These are clear symptoms of tired minds. South Africa may be the number one in Tests, but they need to do some work on their game in ODIs, in which their performance has been well below potential in recent times.
--By A Cricket Analyst