Imperfect New York pitch debut as South Africa blow Sri Lanka away in T20 World Cup | Crickit

Imperfect New York pitch debut as South Africa blow Sri Lanka away in T20 World Cup

By, Mumbai
Jun 04, 2024 12:18 AM IST

It was the kind of cricket that we have come to expect from the T20 format but the Proteas start off with a win.

Sri Lanka found only three boundaries and three sixes during their 115-ball stay at the crease. No wonder their band of supporters who came with such fervour to add some colour to the deserted stands on a Monday morning in New York found very few reasons to cheer as South Africa breezed past the Lankans in the first Group D encounter of the T20 World Cup by 6 wickets.

Reeza Hendricks of South Africa plays a shot during the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup (Getty Images)
Reeza Hendricks of South Africa plays a shot during the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup (Getty Images)

‘A little bit of Adelaide, a little bit of Australia’. At the toss, that’s what South African captain Aiden Markram made of New York’s Nassau county international stadium pitch on its World Cup debut. If he meant bounce, there was plenty of it on offer. But it wasn’t the true bounce one would expect at the Adelaide Oval. It was spongier and inconsistent. A little closer to home, they would have felt. Of how they feel with the red ball on Test match pitches in South Africa, where even medium pacers become a force with seam movement.

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The white kookaburra held up a fraction and the four South African quicks exploited the conditions beautifully. Pathum Nissanka fell early. After which the two Mendis’ - Kushal and Kamindu batted through the Powerplay overs, trying to power the ball to boundary and failed consistently. Every time they played along the ground, the sand-based outfield was so slow, it would leave the batters frustrated. On far from perfect conditions for T20 cricket, Sri Lankan scoreboard read 24/1 after the first six – nothing like Manhattan, nearby.

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Sri Lanka decided to take their chances but none of them clicked. In 10 overs they were 40/5. It was Anrich Nortje who led the Proteaus charge. All through the IPL, the express pacer was so expensive that his Delhi franchise had to drop him. A fortnight of better sleep and recharged batteries later, Nortje was a changed man. Also, these weren’t conditions anywhere similar to the runathons one saw in the premier domestic league.

Left-handed Kamindu Mendis (11) found more air than distance as he failed to time his flick and holed out to the waiting deep fine leg, gifting Nortje his first wicket. In the next over, Keshav Maharaj was too clever for the promoted Sri Lanka captain Wanindu Hasaranga and Sadeera Samarawickrama; both fell for nought. The left-arm spinner couldn’t complete a hat-trick but it was to be Nortje’s morning.

He bowled the occasional slower ball but only to set the batters up with his bumpers. After finding no timing on his strokes, Kushal Mendis 19 (30b) ran out of patience and failed to keep a Nortje bouncer down and holed out at deep fine leg. After his dream first spell of 3-0-6-3, Nortje returned to bowl the 16th over and got the better of Sri Lanka’s last hope Angelo Mathews (16) with another bumper to push the 2014 winners down to 70/8.

Somehow, the rest of the batters stretched the issue until the first ball of the 20th over, but 77 is all they could manage. Nortje finished with his best T20 World Cup figures of 4-0-7-4 as only three Sri Lankan batters managed to get to double figures. Pacer Otteneil Bartman (4-1-9-1) was equally difficult to score against.

South African batters didn’t find batting any easier as they took 16.4 overs to chase the target down. There are seven more league matches to be played in New York including three of crowd-pullers India. With the brand-new drop-in pitch having had little time to settle and run scoring proving to be such hard work, New York’s first brush with big cricket would have left the International Cricket Council a tad anxious.

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