Graeme Smith’s blog on the ICC website may seem a tad harsh, but if we want to be honest with ourselves, it makes a lot of clinical sense:
In my previous column I said how important it was that the Proteas bat deep into their innings so to exploit the New Zealand fifth bowler. The rain robbed them of this opportunity to a certain extent as the fifth bowler only had to complete eight overs. The rain also created a wet outfield which altered the composition of the ball by making it a lot softer when the Proteas bowled. It was clear that the bowlers were battling with this. The elements are part and parcel of the game of cricket and the side which adapts the quickest to them usually comes out on top.
At the 1999 World Cup when Australia were in a precarious position and faced with having to win all their remaining games to progress to the semi-finals, Steve Waugh spoke about the importance of taking every half chance that presented itself. In a tight game with so much at stake neither team is going to put in a flawless performance, but the Proteas missed the half chances that counted and it ultimately cost them. Most tellingly, they seemed to deviate from their pre-planned bowling strategy to McCullum by bowling poor lengths which allowed him to dictate the pace of the game.
This in turn allowed for the middle-order to play themselves in as opposed to having to chase the game from the outset.
We could further scrutinize the selection of Philander ahead of Abbott, the two missed run-outs and the miscommunication between Berhardien and Duminy, but ultimately New Zealand were the better team on the day and have been the better team in the tournament thus far.
I experienced three losses in World Cup knockout games and know that the hurt will be present for some time but the team will bounce back.
Unlike the national sport in England, where ex-captains relish the opportunity of hammering the present incumbent, Smith’s views are factual, not critical.
Stephen Fleming’s View
The shrewd ex-captain of New Zealand writes:
I mentioned the feeling of euphoria that has followed the outcome of the match but as someone who has played the sport at the highest level, I found it impossible not to have enormous sympathy with South Africa.
The raw hurt of the side was just laid bare for the world to see and those images of Morné Morkel close to tears will live with everyone who saw them for a long, long time – perhaps as long as South Africa competes in World Cups until they actually win one.
But something else has stayed with me in the aftermath of the match and that is the way in which the two teams conducted themselves.
In 2011 they produced a quarter-final match-up that, looking back, is now remembered as much for the ugly on-field incidents between them as for New Zealand’s come-from-behind win, but there was nothing like that this time.
I thought the style in which both sides played, the respect they showed each other and the behaviour of the players, both during and after the match, was superb and something that really gave me a great feeling about the modern game.
The match also showed us all that is good about One-Day International cricket and suddenly the format appears in the best of health after several years when people were suggesting it would wither and die in the face of Twenty20.
South Africa lost the match, but won so much respect for the manner in which they conducted themselves, that I remain an extremely proud Protea supporter despite the loss.