Strange approach to final

For ten years now players have rated ‘niggling’ injuries in terms of whether they could “play in a final” or not. “We’re resting it as a precaution,” Craig Smith used to say at least three or four times per tour, “but he could play if it was the final.”

Before the final of the Morocco Cup South Africa’s entire approach, from selection policy to batting and bowling order, amongst other tactics, depended on the condition of Jacques Kallis’ knee.

If it was OK, he was set to share the new ball with Shaun Pollock with Justin Ontong standing by to play as an extra batsman and useful spinning option. But, as it transpired, Kallis ‘felt’ the knee on the morning of the match and Roger Telemachus was picked. And just like in two previous matches against Sri Lanka, he was belted all over the ground and couldn’t do anything about it. Four overs for 36 and South Africa were effectively 21-0 down after 10 minutes, in rugby parlance.

New physiotherapist Shane Jabaar told Shaun Pollock that he believed Kallis “could bowl six overs” but “might struggle to come back for a second spell.” That is a remarkably accurate diagnosis. Six overs.

It seems strange that Kallis was fit to bowl six overs in the middle of the innings but not at the start of it. There was a time when “fit to play” meant exactly that.

A compromise was obviously reached before the final began, but was it a sensible compromise or was there a certain lack of decisiveness and clarity? It was a final, after all. And winning is a beautiful and contagious habit.

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