‘Miller Time’ saves Proteas from another Netherlands nightmare

David Miller kept the Proteas innings together with an unbeaten 59 against The Netherlands on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

David Miller kept the Proteas innings together with an unbeaten 59 against The Netherlands on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Published Jun 8, 2024


There could not possibly be another extraordinary climax approaching the incredible. Could lightning indeed strike thrice?

After fearing the worst for the largest chunk of their run-chase, the Proteas eventually ensured it did not, as they avenged their previous two ICC tournament defeats to The Netherlands with a nervy four-wicket victory in their Group D T20 World Cup clash at the Nassau County Ground in Long Island, New York on Saturday.

A calamitous initial reply to The Netherlands’ seemingly incongruous 103/9 saw the Proteas reduced to 12/4 in the PowerPlay, before David Miller’s experience combined with Tristan Stubbs’ youthful fearlessness.

It was the perfect marriage as the pair absorbed the pressure after the Men in Orange put the squeeze on.

But unlike their teammates, who were almost casual in their approach earlier on and seemingly paralysed by the prospect of losing to the Dutch yet again, the pair stuck manfully to their task of limiting the risk before gathering momentum.

This approach yielded a record T20 World Cup sixth-wicket stand of 65 off 72 balls, before Stubbs was held out in the deep for 33 (37 balls, 1x4, 1x6).

But the value of having Miller, who is playing in his 12th major ICC tournament, proved to be the difference as the southpaw held his nerve to steer the Proteas home with a match-winning 59 not out off 51 balls (3x4, 4x6).

The way he closed out the match – after sending Keshav Maharaj back off the final ball of the previous over – with two sixes and a boundary was a high-definition display of a player who’s in complete control of his powers.

And considering the 34-year-old had also struck a century in the the 50-over World Cup semi-final – his last innings at a major tournament prior to yesterday – can only bode well for the Proteas’ chances in the United States and Caribbean.

Miller’s heroics were required as the Proteas had stumbled from the diabolical run out off the very first ball, which saw Quinton de Kock return to the dug-out without scoring.

The Netherlands attack was by no means sending down rockets, hoping for them to explode off the surface.

They were simply a well-drilled but limited team of medium-pacers and slow bowlers who diligently stuck to their task.

In terms of condition, the pitch was by no means the minefield we’ve witnessed during the previous matches in New York, with the bounce much more consistent.

But there was still sufficient assistance for an attack of the quality that this Proteas side boasted earlier in the day.

Coupled with some superb catching and fielding, the Proteas bossed the first half of the game again, just like they did against Sri Lanka in their opener earlier in the week.

Marco Jansen was at the forefront of the initial charge with a couple of wickets in the PowerPlay, while the lanky all-rounder also utilised his considerable reach to claim a superb one-handed catch at slip to help Ottniel Baartman secure his first wicket of the day.

Baartman is certainly enjoying his time out in the sun in New York as he returned to close out the Dutch innings – after former SA Under-19 all-rounder Sybrand Engelbrecht gave his adopted nation a semblance of hope with a well-constructed 40 – with the seamer claiming three wickets in the final over to finish with career-best figures of 4/11.

Anrich Nortjé also continued his recovery with another positive haul of 2/19 to add to his four wickets from the previous match against Sri Lanka.

At the interval, it certainly did not seem as if the Proteas’ run chase would be another nerve-wracking episode.

But after De Kock’s run out, Reeza Hendricks playing down the wrong line, captain Aiden Markram being caught down the leg side and Heinrich Klaasen chipping tamely into the deep, the stage appeared set for a third instalment where the Proteas had to taste some more Dutch medicine.

Fortunately for the South Africans, Miller stood up when it was most needed, and coach Rob Walter’s side can now finally lay their Netherlands nightmare to rest.