After Australia victory, South Africa need to prove they can win without Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada sent Australia tumbling to defeat with stunning match figures of 11 for 150 in the Port Elizabeth Test match. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 March 2018

After Australia victory, South Africa need to prove they can win without Kagiso Rabada

LONDON: South Africa won the Port Elizabeth Test but lost their pace spearhead. Kagiso Rabada sent Australia tumbling to defeat with stunning match figures of 11 for 150, but then discovered that he would miss the next two Tests after one on-field transgression too many. With the series now beautifully poised at 1-1 with two to play, we look back at what we learned from St. George’s Park.

You did not need to be a mind reader to understand Faf du Plessis’ conflicted emotions after the six-wicket victory. Rabada was the player his team could least afford to lose, and his impassioned defense, comparing the Rabada-Steve Smith shoulder-brushing incident with David Warner’s stairwell rage in Durban, struck a chord. “For me, if you look at those incidents, one is brushing of the shirt, the other is a lot more aggressive. My question was: Why are both these incidents labelled the same (level 2, with three demerit points)? For me, they are not.”
In the history of Test cricket, only George Lohmann, who played the last of his 18 Tests in 1896, has a better strike-rate than Rabada among those with more than 100 wickets. Those he has left behind include Dale Steyn, widely regarded as South Africa’s greatest bowler, and Malcolm Marshall, who most of his peers consider the best there ever was. You can understand du Plessis’ funk.

By his exceptional standards, Smith has had a quiet series, with just one half-century and 130 runs in two Tests. Three of the dismissals came against orthodox left-arm spin, with Keshav Maharaj dismissing him once in each Test. Among the bowlers to have dismissed Smith more than once in Tests, are three lefties. He averages 22.33 against Maharaj, 39 against India’s Ravindra Jadeja and 43.4 against Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath. Those are hardly dire numbers, but when put up against a career average of 62.49, they do suggest a small chink in formidable armor.

Cameron Bancroft has scores of five, 53, 38 and 24 in the two Tests. Seven matches into his career, he averages a modest 27.18, and you can glimpse a worrying pattern. Eight times in 12 innings, he has faced at least 40 balls and batted for more than an hour. The quality opening batsmen, once they have seen off the new-ball threat, cash in. With just two half-centuries to his name, Bancroft has not been able to do that. Some, like the luckless Matt Renshaw, have been dropped for less.

Having announced his decision to retire at the end of this series, Morne Morkel started it needing six wickets to get to 300. He struggled for rhythm and figures of three for 121 in Durban, prompting the selectors to bring in the exciting Lungi Ngidi for the second Test. Ngidi was a superb foil for Rabada, taking five for 75 and breaking partnerships at vital moments. Had Rabada not succumbed to white-line fever, Morkel may have stayed on the sidelines. Now, it seems certain that both he and Ngidi will play in Cape Town.

In testing conditions where only four other batsmen went past 50, AB de Villiers smashed 154 runs off 172 balls. His unbeaten 126 in the first innings — most of those runs made in the company of the tail, and against vicious reverse swing — was the difference between parity and a match-transforming lead. Like Virat Kohli, he now has six centuries against Australia, a South African record and a gentle reminder of the folly of excluding him from any conversation about the world’s best batsman. At 34, he is significantly older than Smith, Kohli, Root and Williamson, but he is every bit as good.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Updated 22 June 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.