Kemp and Hall clinch series

Twenty overs into today’s third and final match between South Africa and India in Cape Town, it would have been impossible to believe that South Africa would score 274 and win by 106 runs. But as hard as it is to come to terms with, the astonishing comeback did indeed occur thanks to an ODI record partnership by any country for the eighth wicket between Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall. They put on 138 runs as South Africa and the spectacular hitting display by the two which guided the South Africans from a position from which 150 would have been a good score to a score that was in the end just too big for India after yet another disastrous beginning by their top order batsmen. It wasn’t always clear that South Africa would win however, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni threatened to snatch victory out of South Africa’s hands and tie the series, but when his wicket fell India collapsed for the second time and South Africa took a 2-0 series win.

But the match could not have started in a worse way for South Africa. Their crushing victory in the second match of the series seemed a truly distant memory as the home side collapsed to 76-6. The top-order collapse was primarily caused by Zaheer Khan, who took two wickets in the first over of the match and took 3 wickets for just 9 runs in his first seven overs. Only two of the top six batsmen reached double figures, with Herschelle Gibbs reaching 35 before hitting a powerful cover drive straight into the hands of Mohammad Kaif and AB de Villiers scoring 29 before being caught behind off the bowling of Ajit Agarkar.

The departure of Mark Boucher for 4 brought Justin Kemp to the crease. Starting reasonably cautiously in a crucial 60-run stand with Shaun Pollock, Kemp grew more and more comfortable at the crease and that was clearly shown by his increasingly aggressive strokeplay. When Pollock was dismissed for a fine 33, Andrew Hall came out to join Kemp at the crease. What followed was truly extraordinary.

In just over 14 overs the two put on an incredible 138 runs at a rate in excess of nine runs per over. Hall ran tremendously between the wickets and struck the ball beautifully through gaps, targeting the boundary regularly as his partner began to clear it. Although he is known for his powerful hitting, Kemp’s innings was more impressive and powerful than anything we have seen from him in quite some time. His innings contained no fewer than seven sixes, and rather than just narrowly clearing the rope they were massive hits that did as much damage to the Indian bowlers’ morale as it did to the ball itself.

The two’s undefeated stand transformed the innings from one which appeared unlikely to reach 200 to one which comfortably passed 250, and so confident the two had become with the score they had achieved that Hall unselfishly fed the strike to Kemp in the last couple of overs to enable him to reach his maiden century, which he achieved from just 89 balls. His last 58 came from just 24 balls. Hall himself brought up his third ODI fifty, finishing on 56 from 47 deliveries as the innings ended on 274-7, a score that is near impossible to believe after the abysmal start.

India would have gone into the break with a feeling that the match had slipped away from their grasp after such a dominant beginning, and early in their chase of 275 it got even worse. The fourth ball of the innings saw Virender Sehwag caught at third man off the bowling of Pollock, the first wicket falling before a run was even on the board. 0-1 became 7-2 as the huge wicket of Sachin Tendulkar followed in the fifth over with the same bowler being responsible for the wickets of two of the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket.

Pollock was again the bowler responsible for the third wicket, when Mohammad Kaif was a victim of good bowling and poor choice of shot after a brief but promising innings of 10 when he tried a pull shot and bottom-edged the ball onto his own stumps, leaving the score at 17-3.

Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Dravid launched a recovery of sorts, guiding the score through to 44-3 before South Africa struck again first ball after the drinks break, Karthik falling to Makhaya Ntini for 14.

But then India clawed their way back into the contest. Dhoni and Rahul Dravid, who came in at number three and batted bravely throughout the innings and had to watch helplessly from the other end as wicket after wicket fell, set about rebuilding the chase much in the same way as Kemp and Hall had a few hours earlier. As Dhoni began to get his eye in and target the boundary, the atmosphere in the ground changed. The sold-out Newlands crowd had until this point in the innings been celebrating what seemed a certain series win, but suddenly went quiet as Dhoni hit three huge sixes in the space of nine balls in bringing up his half-century at better than a run-a-ball. The way Dhoni was swinging, a score of 300 would have looked under threat.

But the crucial moment of the match came with the score at 129-4, when Dhoni tried to pull one off his legs for six but was well caught by Loots Bosman on the boundary for 55. From there the Indian innings collapsed again, with Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Ajit Agarkar all falling in quick succession, with South Africa all the while tightening their grip on the series trophy.

Left with no option but to go for it himself, Dravid changed his approach to the innings dramatically after the fall of the eighth wicket. Having until this point acted as the anchor of the innings while his partners attempted to be the dominant run-scorers in each partnership, Dravid set about attacking the bowling, signalling his intent with a cleanly-hit six over long-on. But he was unable to find anyone capable of providing support at the other end and eventually was himself the ninth wicket to fall, caught well by a diving Hall for a brave 63 and the last wicket soon followed, appropriately taken by Andrew Hall, India being bowled out for 168.

Although it was an improved effort from India on their disastrous 91 all out in the second match of the series, India will still be disappointed with their performance. After having had South Africa on the ropes at 76-6 they allowed the match to be ripped from their grasp by a world-record partnership for the eighth wicket in one-day international cricket, and once again surrendered a possible advantage when Dhoni was playing so well in the chase and capitulated after his demise. It was perhaps more a case of India losing the match than South Africa winning it, but nevertheless Kemp and Hall deserve all the accolades they get for their astonishing 138-run partnership and spectacular hitting display late in the innings. Both teams’ top order produced poor performances, and both saw excellent bowling displays by new ball bowlers in the form of Zaheer Khan and Shaun Pollock. But the 14-over period of sustained hitting by Kemp and Hall was something India were unable to replicate and was the difference between the two teams.

South Africa 274-7
Justin Kemp 100 no, Andrew Hall 56 no
Zaheer Khan 3-42, Irfan Pathan 1-60

India 168
Rahul Dravid 63, MS Dhoni 55
Shaun Pollock 4-26, Jacques Kallis 2-29

South Africa won by 106 runs.

Cricket Web Player of the Match – Justin Kemp (100 no)

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