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The Head-Turners

cricket Updated: Jun 11, 2009 03:10 IST
Venkat Ananth
Venkat Ananth
Hindustan Times
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Ask people on the streets on who might win the WT20, and there is near unanimity – South Africa. One of the unbeaten teams, South Africa’s completeness has made them serious title contenders.

After their opener against Scotland, captain Graeme Smith said his team had “made a statement” with a clinical and professional performance. If that wasn’t enough, the bowlers led a remarkable comeback against New Zealand on Tuesday to clinch the dead-rubber by a solitary run.

“I think in terms of the bigger picture, it was fantastic for us to have a high pressure game. To defend a total like 128 and perform under pressure was great,” Smith later said.

The batting order is high on quality and on its day can tear any attack apart. For someone who didn’t catch his team’s fancy in the first edition, Jacques Kallis has completed a transformation of sorts, and after the IPL, has acquitted himself extremely well for his country.

AB de Villiers is in the form of his life and once he gets going, the South African total can only swell. It’s not just at the top that the Proteas stand firm. If anything, it’s their depth in batting that makes them awesome. With the likes of Albie Morkel and JP Duminy coming in lower down, no game is ever beyond the Proteas.

The bowling isn’t lagging either. Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell have clicked as a fast bowling pair and accounted for early wickets. But, it is the spinners, Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe, who have been a revelation.

With subtle variation of pace, the duo has proven to be quite a handful in the middle overs, especially when it comes to containing the batsmen. “I am not a wicket-taker. Primarily, my job is to contain and I love it,” said Van der Merwe after his stingy spell of 2-14 on Tuesday.

Another area where the Proteas have been near perfect so far has been bowling at the death. Parnell and Steyn produced an ideal performance against New Zealand - holding their nerves, putting the ball in the right areas and firing in yorkers when needed most.

As a South African fan said, the only team that can defeat them are the Proteas are themselves.

Seems true for the moment.