South Africa in search of Daddy Hundred

Daddy Hundreds is an endearing term for triple-figure scores that are bigger than most. Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 124 against South Africa is not quite a daddy hundred. David Warner’s 166 against Bangladesh fits the bill.

England's Jofra Archer (R) celebrates after the dismissal of Proteas captain Faf du Plessis (C) during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between England and South Africa at The Oval in London on 30 May 2019. Picture: AFP

LONDON - There have been 15 hundred scored at this Cricket World Cup. Five for England, three each for Australia, India and Bangladesh and one for New Zealand.

As many scores between 80 and 99 have been registered. Four apiece for England and Australia, two for Sri Lanka and one each for India, New Zealand, Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan.

Only two teams do not feature; Afghanistan and South Africa. But with Hashmatullah Shahidi’s 76 against England and Quinton de Kock’s 68 against Afghanistan representing their nations’ highest scores at the tournament, an obvious explanation to the Proteas’ woes is revealed.

Daddy Hundreds is an endearing term for triple-figure scores that are bigger than most. Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 124 against South Africa is not quite a daddy hundred. David Warner’s 166 against Bangladesh fits the bill.

Daddy Hundreds change games. They ensure that a sizeable total is posted and allows those wielding the willow at the other end to bat around the patriarch of the innings. South Africa need one of their batters to take their scores through puberty, beyond young adulthood and into the realm of mortgages, school runs and pension plans.

For Aiden Markram, the youngest of South Africa’s run-getters, the task is a simple one: “We have been getting in but it’s about converting those starts into big scores,” he said. “We pride ourselves as individuals on scoring big hundreds.”

Markram has scores of 45 and 38 in the World Cup. De Kock has reached 68 twice. Rassie van der Dussen and Hashim Amla have two fifties each. Faf du Plessis has maxed out at 62. These are scores that are less than the sum of their parts if not supplemented by a Daddy Hundred. At this point, South Africa will take a hundred of any kind. So, what’s been the problem?

Markram refused to acknowledge that a lack of intent has been the Proteas’ downfall and stressed that each failure to kick on must be examined in isolation and not part of a wider problem.

He pointed to the dismissals of Amla and du Plessis against New Zealand, out for 55 and 23 respectively, as examples of good deliveries getting outset batsmen. Amla got a ripper from finger spinner Mitchell Santner which hit an excellent length and spun before clipping the top of off stump. Du Plessis was castled by an equally impressive searing yorker from Lockie Ferguson.

Fair enough. A good ball is a good ball and there’s always one with a batsman’s name on it. But what about Markram’s 38 in that same match where he miscued Colin de Grandhomme to extra cover? Or David Miller’s leading edge against Bangladesh when on 38? There was little rationale behind van der Dussen’s reverse sweep against India when he was just getting going on 22.

“It’s not a case of a lack of intent or poor thinking,” Markram explained. “It’s about execution.”

Too often a South African batsman has failed to successfully climb through the gears the way some of their contemporaries have. Warner’s gargantuan score was struck off 147 balls, but he was slow off the mark. He reached 50 off 55 balls and passed 100 after 110. That means he knocked off 66 runs from his final 37 balls at the crease.

Kane Williamson's match-winning 106 not-out against South Africa is another instance of a batter earning the right to alter the course of a game after doing the hard work up front. He unbeaten after facing 138 balls and went through a period where runs were hard to come by on a sticky wicket. Ball after ball fielders who found after well-timed strokes, but the New Zealand captain remained unperturbed.

Lesser players would have attempted an unorthodox shot - a hit across the line or one up and over cover - but Williamson was resolute. By dragging his team over the line, he provided a blueprint on how to construct an innings.

“We know that Kane is obviously one of the best batters in the world,” Markram said. “He knew that if he was there at the end New Zealand would be close. You could see Kane knew his role. That comes from identifying what your role is in a situation rather than intent.”

Markram continued: “We try and play a brand of cricket where we look to be positive. The wicket was tough [at Birmingham against New Zealand] and we couldn’t express ourselves in the way we wanted.”

The pitch for tomorrow’s game at Lord’s is a fresh one. The Home of Cricket, as this ground has so grandiosely been labelled, is hosting its first match of the World Cup. Right now it is hardly distinguishable from the lush green outfield around it but most of the grass will be cut away in time for the first ball. A potential batting paradise awaits.

South Africa’s World Cup fate is out of their hands. A whole heap of results need to go their way alongside a full house of victories against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia. Even then it might not be enough. With the pressure somewhat off, perhaps the Proteas batsmen can simply go out and do what they do and prove to themselves, and the doubters, that they can still post Daddy Hundreds.