South Africa Rain On Stokes’ Parade

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - South Africa rain on Stokes' parade. Stokes bowled just five overs (for 44 runs) and scored just five runs in his final ODI

South Africa Rain On Stokes’ ParadeStokes bowled just five overs (for 44 runs) and scored just five runs in his final ODI

One moment Ben Stokes was acknowledging an adoring crowd as he loped onto his home ground in splendid isolation to mark his arrival at the scene of his 105th and last ODI. The next, five balls into the match at the Riverside on Tuesday, he was haring after Janneman Malan's crisp drive off Sam Curran.

Cricket has changed in important and irrevocable ways even since Stokes, who has been an international for less than 11 years, became one of its brightest stars. But the game still expects even the stars to do their fair share of the hard work. Some of them have brought such supreme athleticism to the game that they make what is, for the rest of us, impossible look nothing more than routine.

Stokes sped smoothly across the vast, slick outfield in the 37-degree Celsius heat, having shortly before wiped from his eyes what might have been sweat or perhaps tears of appreciation for the heartfelt ovation he had received. He caught up to the ball as the cover boundary loomed, fell on it like a blanket on a puppy, bounced back upright and turned with liquid elegance, and, having done all that to save a solitary run, rifled a perfectly fine throw to the middle. Allegedly, he is struggling with a knee injury.

Weekend cricketers, mortals all, know what it feels like to have to do what Stokes did so apparently effortlessly. And what it feels like knowing they have no chance of emulating him. What they don't know is what it feels like to be Stokes, to have all of the talent and skill to play at the highest level but not enough of the time required to do so as frequently as the suits require. Weekend warriors of all kinds are also time poor, but not like this. Most of them, unlike Stokes, do not have the choice to give up a chunk of what they are paid to do to enable them to better keep up with the rest of their jobs.

Rassie van der Dussen is no-one's idea of a weekend warrior. Neither is he Stokes. Nobody is. But only Babar Azam and Quinton de Kock have scored more runs in fewer ODI innings than Van der Dussen since he made his debut in January 2019. His career-best 134 on Tuesday, his third century in 14 innings that have also featured four half-centuries, was a thing of discipline and dedication that anchored South Africa's 333/5 – their highest total in the 54 ODIs they have played in England, and second-highest in the 22 played at this ground.

Even as England rotated players in and out of furnace that Durham became as the day itself wilted and the queues for water curled around corners, Van der Dussen, his sleeves long, his collar turned up, his head helmeted throughout, batted on and on and on for three minutes short of three hours. He took guard in the seventh over and was bowled in the 46th trying to muscle Liam Livingston over midwicket. He shared stands of 109 with Janneman Malan and 151 with Aiden Markram – a record for South Africa's third wicket against England – faced 117 balls and looked like he needed a holiday when he got out.

So did the English, who were in the field for three hours and 49 minutes in their striking but dark blue kit. ODI debutant Matthew Potts didn't last that long, bowling just four overs before being removed from the equation because of the heat. But only one of South Africa's recognised bowlers, Andile Phehlukwayo, was called to the crease, and for just three minutes at that. De Kock batted for only 29 minutes at the top of the innings and then had nearly four hours to recover before he had to go out and keep wicket. Understandably, Van der Dussen didn't reappear at the start of England's reply. He was off the field until the 20th over while medics “managed” his “hydration and secondary muscle cramps”, the dressing room said.

Did the extreme weather affect England's batting? They were eight runs and a wicket behind the South Africans in the powerplay comparison, but the 54/1 they reached was better than in two of their recent three ODIs against India. Even so, Jonny Bairstow survived dropped catches when he was 18 and 50, and he and Jason Roy might have been run out early. Instead they shared 102 for the first wicket and Bairstow made 63.

Keshav Maharaj had additional thinking to do in the 18th over after he collided with Phehlukwayo as they converged on a batted ball, resulting in the seamer gashing his chin on his captain's shoulder and having to leave the field. He was later described by team management as “displaying features of a concussion” and replaced by Dwaine Pretorius.

Phehlukwayo's immediate stand-in, Markram, struck the key blows by trapping a sweeping Bairstow and a reverse-sweeping Stokes in front four overs apart. Bairstow reviewed, surely more in hope than conviction. Stokes consulted briefly with his partner, Jos Buttler, before shaking his head in disappointment and taking his leave; gone for five in his last hurrah.

When Tabraiz Shamsi, in his follow through, pounced on Buttler's leading edge that looped off his pad, England needed 9.44 an over with Joe Root the only survivor from their top four. The calm, composed Root could only watch from the other end when Livingston and Moeen Ali went in the space of seven deliveries as England shambled to 199/6 in the 38th.

But even rock steady Root couldn't win a staring contest against a team who had come to play their own game – not Test coach Brendon McCullum's Bazball nor India's nor anyone else's. On social media there was churlishness from some England supporters about South Africa's apparently archaic approach. It seems they played more like a team from way back when in the deep, dark long gone age of 2015 than a modern side. How dare they.

But the fact that a team whose fans fancy them to be on the cutting edge of innovation couldn't do much more than flap and flail their way to 271 all out in 46.5 overs against a side who batted with gumption and grit, bowled intelligently and were captained with nous and authority poses awkward questions for England.

It also reveals something about their opponents. Van der Dussen showed a keen understanding of his own game and stayed true to it. Only part-timer Markram and emergency entrant Pretorius went for more than a run-a-ball, and Anrich Nortje took four wickets for just the second time in his career. Maharaj, a stand-in skipper, mind, led like a natural, making the right changes at the right time and never looking flustered. There was an unvarnished but not simplistic honesty about the way South Africa played, and it paid off. As Maharaj said in his television interview: “Rassie set the tone with the bat, and the bowlers stuck to their task with the ball.”

Van der Dussen acknowledged that “it was pretty hot” but declined to add to the hype about the conditions. He likened the ground to “Bloemfontein, size-wise; about the same temperature with a little more wind”. South Africa's biggest ground, measured in surface area, is in Bloem – where summer highs soar past 30 degrees more often than not.

But the more relevant truth in the second half of South Africa's 62-run win was, as Van der Dussen said, that “England couldn't get to the required rate. You could see they were trying different things.” And not getting anywhere. Van der Dussen tried the same things – half of his 10 fours were either driven through the covers or reverse swept – and he went everywhere he needed to go.

England are sometimes accused of over-thinking. South Africa are sometimes criticised for not thinking enough. Sometimes, as we know from the way Stokes and Van der Dussen play, less is more.

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