Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Defying Sanath, Amla gets it wrong

Ahmed Amla must have been questioning his wisdom to bowl first as the Nashua Dolphins were crushed by a resurgent Cobras in the second leg of the Standard Bank Pro20 semi-final at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Sunday.

The three-leg tie now stands at one apiece and the deciding game in the semifinal will be staged at the same venue on Wednesday, at 6pm.

On Sunday the Cobras batsmen were in sublime form as they savaged the Dolphins attack while scoring 191-4 and then had the home side on the ropes and waiting to be counted out on 59-5 when the rain came down.

The Duckworth-Lewis method was called on and it declared Cobras deserved winners by 38 runs.

After winning the first leg at Sahara Park Newlands on Friday any captain would have learned that the Cobras do not take too well to pressure.

In that game the Dolphins pummelled their attack while scoring 162-5 off 20 overs and came away with a 14-run win after dismissing their opposition for 148.

Instead of continuing in the same vein and giving Sanath Jayasuriya and HD Ackermen - the destroyers in chief in Cape Town - the opportunity to lay into the Cobras attack, Amla decided to field after winning the toss.

The advantage of using the wicket first disappeared and the initiative was gone. Dolphins hearts sank further as Yusuf Abdulla dropped a "dolly" from Graeme Smith on the ropes.

Heads dropped and the body language told the whole story.

The bowling went to pieces as the carnage began with Smith and Herschelle Gibbs butchering the so-called strongest attack in the competition. Smith, who has returned to the game after a five-week lay-off, scored 33 (20b 6x4s) in his 66-run opening stand off 42 balls with Gibbs, who was a class act.

The Proteas player, who has had a troubled life on and off the field in the past year, went on to compile 92 with seven 4s and four towering sixes off 57 deliveries.

Though there was some joy after Smith and Duminy (0) departed in quick succession, Gibbs blasted away as he delivered more telling blows to the home side with Justin Ontong (32 off 26, 3x4s 1x6). The Gibbs-Ontong third wicket stand yielded 74 runs.

After that Vernon Philander also helped himself to 21 off 11 balls before the innings ended on 191-4.

Even before the 8 500 crowd had finished their dinner, the Dolphins batting began crumbling.

Jayasuriya, who had to play the big shots, went for a duck, playing a reckless shot off his first ball, Ackerman went for 16, Grant Rowley (1), Jon Kent (10) and before they knew it they were 59-5 and at a point of no return. In that 59-5 Hashim Amla made a classy 23 off 18 balls.

The rain came at a time when the Dolphins were way behind and, according to the Duckworth-Lewis method, they were 38 runs behind and thus well beaten.

Now they have a day in between to pick themselves off the canvas and go into the deciding leg on Wednesday.

But if they want to win and book a passage to India for the IPL Champions League, it will be crucial for Amla to make the right decisions.

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