Pakistan struggling against the odds, and Mark Boucher’s record

Pakistan have their work cut out to get something out of the First Test against South Africa. The Proteas scored 450, on the back of a big hundred by Jacques Kallis, who certainly would have had a point to prove to the selectors who left him out of the Twenty20 team. Then the rather unlikely sight of a South African spinner on top, Paul Harris taking 5 for 73. That left Pakistan all out for 291, and it could have been even less if it wasn’t for some stout lower order batting. Now South Africa in their second dig are 76 for 3, and the lead is already beyond 200. (scorecard)

The other notable feat of the Test is that South Africa’s keeper, Mark Boucher, has passed Ian Healy’s record for the most dismissals in Tests. He’s a worthy holder of the record, a fine gloveman who has mastered his craft. The one disappointment in his career would have to be that South Africa have not really produced a spin bowler worthy of his talents. On the rare occasion  that I’ve seen him up to the stumps, he’s certainly looked the goods though and it is notable that in Pakistan’s innings he did get two stumpings. There’s nothing wrong with his abilities at what is the ultimate test of a keeper’s skills. (stats)

South Africa smash and grab

Three days ago they were pedestrian, and that’s a compliment. Today South Africa were devastating, inflicting a forth successive loss and certain elimination to hosts West Indies (there’s actually still a mathematical chance). The sudden turnaround is sure to renew the hopes of the Proteas while West Indies’ imminent exit will surely empty a couple more seats for the remaining games. I’m suspicious that many weren’t watching anyway.

AB de Villiers smashed his maiden one-day century leaving the field with cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion and some fond memories. Boucher bashed the third fastest fifty (at least this one came against respectable..er opposition) in World Cup history and Gibbs recovered from his calf strain to bash another fifty of his own. Even Kallis looked like a one-day player.

Thoughts? I’m not going to bed anytime soon. It’s still daylight here.

Scorecard here and Bulletin here.

Boucher’s grit

I chose Mark Boucher as my victim for today’s Verdict of the third day’s play at Johannesburg in the third Test. Not convinced that was the best line to choose, but it was a difficult match in which to write a verdict. The day ended slightly in favour of South Africa, who commanded a sizeable lead. However, with two days to go and just two wickets in hand, Australia could yet chase down 300.

That’s a huge ask, though. Anyway, read it if you wish.

South African sooks

You have to make allowances for the South Africans, but even still, one’s patience wears thin. They’ve been moaning about Australians since the start of December, and now that they are back home, they have turned up the moan level full bore. Mark Boucher seems to have taken over as ‘moaner in chief’. The Australians, you’ll be shocked, SHOCKED to hear, say ‘nasty things‘.

South Africans are the last people on earth to complain about others. Discuss!

Australia vs South Africa wrap

I’m not the only one bored with the VB series going this long. I listened to the radio for most of the day while watching the play, as I was getting close to an act of violence if I had to listen to any more of Tony Greig’s insufferable inanities. Peter Roebuck was clearly even more bored then I was since he was more keen on discussing his charitable foundation’s activities in Africa then the game, and he follows my lead in calling for the format to be scrapped.

The game itself was actually good, and Adam Gilchrist was back to his sparkling best, scoring 88 off just 66 balls, with 14 glorious boundaries. His innings was theoretically terminated by a mis-played pull shot, but the actual thing that got him out was the commentator’s curse; as he passed 80, they started talking about double-centuries. He admits he was thinking about it himself, so obviously he got out.

Ponting, Martyn and Hussey all tucked in as well against a very weak South African pace attack, and settled on 344. Chasing that monster of a total, South Africa were just on the edge of possibility until Mark Boucher got out after scoring an excellent 76. They ended up with 287 for 6, which is a huge score in itself.

So a pretty meaningless game in the great scheme of things, but an entertaining fixture, at least compared to what happened in Melbourne on Friday. The difference was that the pitch here was good.

Statistical oddity- Australia scored 344 for 7 in 50 overs, with only one 6 for the innings. And that didn’t come up till the 46th over. Australia scored 300 in 45 overs, without going over the rope once. Bizzare.

South Africa omit Boucher and Gibbs

This news “broke” a few hours ago, and I still don’t know what to make of it. I was suprised when Boucher wasn’t included in his country’s tour to India, which makes this latest decision not to recall him doubly confusing. This BBC article suggests it’s yet further evidence of African politics infiltrating the selection of their sportsmen. Full squad below

Graeme Smith Captain (Nashua WP/Boland)
Nicky Boje Vice-Captain (Goodyear Eagles)
Hashim Amla (Nashua Dolphins)
Zander de Bruyn (Nashua Titans)
AB de Villiers (Nashua Titans)
Boeta Dippenaar (Goodyear Eagles
Andrew Hall (Highveld Lions)
Jacques Kallis (Nashua WP/Boland)
Makhaya Ntini (Mercedes Warriors)
Shaun Pollock (Nashua Dolphins)
Jacques Rudolph (Nashua Titans)
Dale Steyn (Nashua Titans)
Thami Tsolekile (Nashua WP/Boland)

Herschelle Gibbs, one of the stand-out fielders of the last 10 years (in my opinion) is injured and doesn’t make the squad. Good article on him here

I think England will be quietly pleased. Although, as this columist inferred, Fletcher thrives on fastidious preparation and he can’t prepare for players he’s never seen before. Gibbs is mercurial – he has a touch of pure class and gleams talent & a carefree “see it/hit it” simplicity…but he’s just as fallable in making stupid mistakes (not least in World Cups – sorry!)

I’ve always admired Boucher (who I’ve seen referred to as a “veteran” – he’s only 29! 2 years older than Andrew Strauss who’s a relative newbie to Test Cricket). He has a lot of guts and spirit, and is a damn handy number 7/8/ who can take the game away very quickly. He’s been replaced by [who?] who I, and most people outside SA – indeed probably some in SA! – know nothing of. To me, this looks like one of those bizarre “for the future” decisions which England were so fond of doing in the 90s…if I were South African, I’d be wanting the selectors to pick a team “horses for courses” whilst they’re in this “slump.” (note the inverted commas…I’m not ready to eat my hat!)