So much for giant-killing. The world returned to its normal axis in the first match here at The Oval yesterday when Scotland, the tiddler among the minnows in the World Twenty20, were given not a sniff of an opportunity of unseating South Africa.
They had given New Zealand a run for their money in a seven over match the previous day but were outplayed in the long game. It was grotesque to watch by the end and it would have been no surprise to see the League Against Cruel Sports organising a protest march outside the Grace Gates. The margin was 130 runs.
South Africa made 211, their largest total in a T20 match and dismissed Scotland for 81 in the 16th over. If Scotland were humbled there was no disgrace. Their captain Gavin Hamilton seemed to fear for the future of cricket in the country afterwards. Scotland have already failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup and their recent performances have been disappointing.
"We play Australia soon and we have to got to come back hard," he said. "These games aren't going to keep coming along and we can't keep making excuses. Cricket is going forward at a huge rate of knots and we have somehow to keep chugging along behind them or the gap will get bigger."
To retain credence as a global sport, cricket needs its associate nations – those below the Test nations – to continue growing stronger and yesterday showed anything but. "We got together eight days before this tournament started and everyone will be going back to work tomorrow," said Hamilton. "I'd like to see an academy established in Scotland and produce players that way and hopefully five or six of them can be full-time."
He should not be too hard on himself or his team. South Africa are a splendid side who look certain to be in the final stages of this competition and when England spoke before it began of each player knowing his job in the team, this is what they must have had in mind. The difference being that in South Africa's case the players are actually equipped for the purpose. They were bristling from the start yesterday, ferociously determined that what had happened to the host nation was not about to be inflicted on them.
Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith set off at a natural gallop in the opening overs and had 55 after six overs, 20 of them from one. There was a period of relative calm afterwards but this was merely setting up the storm. In the final five overs South Africa made 85 runs and hit seven sixes.
It was perfect pacing of a Twenty20 innings because they knew what firepower they possessed. Scotland's bowlers were not truly up to the task with the honourable exception of Paisley's Majid Haq whose guile, drift and turn with his off breaks kept South Africa's batsmen honest.
To concede only 25 runs in four overs in any T20 match is commendable, to do so against thunderous batsmen determined to set a benchmark was magnificent. Haq went for only two boundaries – one six, one four – and removed both openers who made the mistake of trying to put him into the bleachers and misjudged the pace.
AB De Villiers piloted the rest of the innings and his 79 from 34 balls was an uncompromising blend of cultured slogging, premeditation, and sound timing. De Villiers who has been around international cricket for five years and is still only 25, has burgeoned into a complete all-round batsman. He is a glittering advertisement for picking them young and watching them grow. Albie Morkel, for whom the format of T20 could have been specifically designed, bashed 24 in 11 balls, scoring from every legitimate ball he faced except the one to which he was out, driving down Kyle Coetzer's throat at long off.
If that was a straightforward catch, the one that Coetzer took two overs later will stay in the minds of those who saw it down the years. Mark Boucher, got plenty of bat on it, as they say, and it looked to be soaring over Coetzer's head but he leapt, arched his back and took a quite breathtaking one-handed catch.
If that might have given Scotland some encouragement it lasted as long as the first over. Ryan Watson, having clipped Dale Steyn for four off his legs, made room to hit through the off side next ball, was beaten for pace and bowled middle stump.
Thereafter the kill was quick. Coetzer enjoyed himself, striking three sixes, in his 42 from 32 balls but it was not so much resistance as defiance. The end in truth was merciful.