The inevitable happened. The latest Proteas news is that South Africa are officially out of the World Cup and it’s been a long time coming.
By Pieter Swanepoel
Proteas News: South Africa’s race really is run
There are no more mathematical equations to consider. The cold truth is that it is all over, and there is no way back. The latest embarrassment in an utterly miserable campaign was a 49-run defeat to Pakistan at Lord’s on Sunday.
The fact that it all ultimately came crashing down at Lord’s – the spiritual home of the game – was even more galling. The legendary ” Father Time “, situated between the Tavern and Mount Stands, must have looked down in disgust at how a once-proud Protea team has allowed itself to plummet to such depths of despair. In Birmingham, against New Zealand, there was at least some fight. There was energy, commitment and a genuine desire.
On Sunday, the South Africans were simply flat. All the pre-match promises of playing for pride, the badge, and all that was just a load of hot air. Only one team pitched up at the races.
The most exasperating fact is that Pakistan are actually not very good either. Former South African coach Mickey Arthur was his excitable self on the Lord’s balcony, gesturing after every dropped catch – and there were numerous.
Pakistan’s batsmen also don’t convert promising starts into centuries, but within each player beats the heart of a lion, coupled with an attitude that refuses to wilt. It should then not be surprising that the only South African able to replicate this passion hails from Lahore. Imran Tahir was born for the big stage, and there isn’t one much bigger than Lord’s, bursting at its seams with boisterous Pakistani supporters.
Speaking of which, that win plus a further victory against New Zealand means Pakistan are very much still in it. With England’s tough matches against India and New Zealand coming up, Pakistan can leapfrog them into fourth place.
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Imran Tahir one of the few to have saved face
Tahir is the oldest player at the World Cup, playing in his third global event, but it could easily be his first, such is his passion on display. More importantly, he also backs it up with skill, when the lights are at their brightest. The rookies in this Proteas team would do well to absorb as much as they can from the veteran over their remaining days at the World Cup.
But even Tahir cannot do everything on his own. He needed support from his fellow bowlers, but unfortunately they never responded with openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fahkar Zaman both scoring 44, before Babar Azam (69) and Haris Sohail (89) took the game away from the Proteas at the back-end of the first innings. Considering the Proteas’ batting has actually been their Achilles heel at the World Cup, the required 309 runs was always going to be too steep.
There was, however, a slim chance when Quinton de Kock (47) and Faf du Plessis (63) were together in the middle. But it would only have been the most blindly devoted, who would have believed that the target was actually within reach, as the Proteas’ familiar script at the CWC19 soon played out. Predictably, de Kock fell to a wild swipe in the deep after being well set, while du Plessis top-edged one into the heavens, when attempting to put his foot down on the accelerator. It was like watching a horror movie on repeat.
Penny-pinching, the IPL shouted loudest and not enough runs
There have been a long list of heart-breaking World Cup episodes for South African cricket stretching all the way back to 1992, with the dreaded “choke” word at the centre of the story. Now, unfortunately, the team of 2019 has joined that list.
Many critics will point fingers at Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis. Others will ask why a “60 per cent fit” Dale Steyn was taken to the World Cup in the first place.
The tactical awareness of the team will also be questioned. The Proteas’ preparation for CWC19 was a hike up Table Mountain and a three-day camp in Pretoria. That is nowhere near enough for a high-intensity tournament.
While Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) financial woes are well-documented, it was no time to start penny-pinching. Equally, CSA’s inability to stand up to the BCCI and get key players released early from the IPL, basically pulled the rug out of the Proteas’ World Cup campaign. Kagiso Rabada looked a weary version of himself at CWC19, due to his exertions in the IPL.
Proteas News: Sri Lanka up next
These are all valid criticisms, but the main problem with the Proteas’ this time was not enough runs on the board.
The batting was brittle at best, with poor shot selection and slow scoring common ailments. The team’s bowlers tried their best, but the totals they defended were too small.
South Africa still have two games to complete at the World Cup, with their penultimate match against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street coming up on Friday. After such an impressive win over England last Friday by Sri Lanka, you have to wonder why the Proteas go into the game as such strong favourites. A good betting opportunity if ever we’ve seen one with Sri Lanka available at 2.7 with Unibet.
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Australia then lie in wait in Manchester to complete South Africa’s programme.
With Australia defeating England by 64 runs in the group stage match at Lord’s and England now anxiously sitting in dangerous territory with eight points and still having to play New Zealand and India, Sri Lanka, presently on six points, will no doubt see Friday’s match against the Proteas as a relative easy target, in order to move up to eight points as well.