South Africa comfortable at No. 1
South Africa comfortable at No. 1
A 211-run win in the first Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers Stadium was their fourth win in a row — all achieved within four days — and it extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches, going back more than a year.
Not only are South Africa on top of the Test team rankings, they dominate the individual categories too.
Hashim Amla tops the batting list, with AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis also in the top ten, while Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are the two top-ranked bowlers, with Morne Morkel at number nine.
In addition, Kallis is the leading all-rounder.
“It’s been a great year for our squad, and to be honest I still don’t think that I am the best batsman in our team,” said Amla.
“What has been most pleasing for us has been the all-round contribution from everyone in the squad.” “Everybody wants to do well for this team,” said Steyn, who destroyed Pakistan by taking six for eight in the first innings and had match figures of 11 for 60.
“We’re really pushing on for something at the moment. We’ve managed to bowl teams out for under 50 and with the bat we have managed to have some big sessions where we have piled on the runs.
“When this team puts its mind together it’s a pretty tough team to play against.” Despite being in his 17th season of international cricket, Kallis says that at the age of 37 he is enjoying the game more than ever.
“You wake up in the morning, keen to practice and play, not only because the team is winning but because of the environment that has been created and the players we’ve got.” Much of the credit for the team culture is due to captain Graeme Smith, the first man to have 100 Test captaincies under his belt, and coach Gary Kirsten, whose understated methods, based on humility and giving players responsibility, are proving as successful with his native country as they were when he was in charge of India.
“It’s an environment where guys are given the freedom to do what they want,” said Kallis.
“But there is a mark and no-one oversteps that mark, which is an incredible culture to have because everyone has respect for each other.” Smith said it was important to keep setting a high standard.
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.