South Africa v West Indies on Monday represents the final opportunity for Faf du Plessis’ men to realistically be in contention for a semi-final place, says Pieter Swanepoel.
On the brink of elimination
So much has gone wrong since South Africa arrived in the United Kingdom. On Wednesday at the Rose Bowl, it was possible to believe that nothing would ever go right again.
From a Proteas’ perspective, there was greater fight, particularly with the ball, but India still cantered home by six wickets. Worse, still the two-time champions looked like they never even got out of neutral.
Not that they needed to either for South Africa’s batsmen failed dismally once again. The Proteas may be missing a couple of senior fast bowlers, but it is their performance with the willow that has been the real disappointing aspect of this near-doomed World Cup campaign.
Faf du Plessis’ men are now left with the virtual impossible task of having to win their final six games if they are to have any chance of progressing to the semis. Mathematically it is still an option, but in reality it is almost impossible. If they are to turn around their fortunes, it would be like climbing Mount Everest on crutches.
But don’t just take my word for it. They’re [12.0] on Betfair to make the last four. One morsel of hope came from the fact Pakistan’s match against Sri Lanka was washed out, reducing the chances of Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men of making the semis.
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An all-round disaster against India
South Africa’s fielding has not been good over the past three games, but David Miller’s dropped catch towards the end of the game against India was diabolical. It accurately summed up where the South Africans are mentally at the moment.
Ben Stokes’ catch against South Africa in the tournament opener was an early candidate for “Catch of the World Cup”. Now Quinton de Kock has thrown his name into the hat with a superb diving one-handed take against India. The catch meant so much more too for it sent Indian captain Virat Kohli back to the pavillion, making it the first time Kohli had not scored a 100 in the first game of a World Cup, after centuries in 2011 and 2015.
I believe it is fair to say that South Africa’s middle-order could simply not pick which way the Indian spinners were turning the ball. They were not able to pick it from the hand and tried, instead, to pick it off the pitch. This had disastrous consequences with Yuzvendra Chahal claiming four wickets.
Then there was the dismissal of JP Duminy off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav, who was trapped plumb in front. The ball was hitting all three stumps, but Duminy still asked for a review, which the Proteas obviously lost.
South Africa’s lights have not been completely switched off just yet, but the Class of 2019 is fast becoming the worst group to ever leave South Africa’s shores for the Cricket World Cup.
AB’s offer and SABC’s discontinued coverage
According to reports on Thursday, AB de Villiers’ request to return to the international scene for the World Cup was ‘not even considered ‘ by captain Faf du Plessis, coach Ottis Gibson and convener of selectors’ Linda Zondi. De Villiers’ sensational offer was met with a door shut in his face by team management.
Cricket SA confirmed that the 35-year-old has indeed offered his service in April to du Plessis, Gibson and Zondi.
It is understood that AB’s relationship with his close friend from school days, Faf du Plessis, had soured following the rejection.
During this past week, it has also been reported that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) won’t televise any remaining matches of the CWC 2019. The free-to-air SABC had confirmed the screening of a limited number of fixtures prior to the start of the tournament. The confirmation came after negotiations with pay channel SuperSport.
South Africa v West Indies
So what about the Proteas’ next match against the West Indies?
The West Indies showed against Australia that their T20-like approach to batting won’t always come off, the dismissal of Andre Russell, a good example of that. Having just hit a boundary, the burley all-rounder went for broke as he tried a big slog and got out. They’ll need to reign in their attacking instincts at times if they’re to master the ODI game. 50 overs is a long time.
Still, their bowlers are rapid and sometimes their big-hitting will come off and they’ll be near-on unplayable. Against a team who’s nought from three, it’s odd that the Windies are slight outsiders here at 2.0 with Betfair Sportsbook.
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Hendricks straight into the side?
My feeling ahead of South Africa v West indies is that they should rather get Aiden Markram to open with Quinton de Kock, instead of Hashan Amla. It must be kept in mind that Markram, who attended Pretoria Boys High School, the alma mater of Graeme Smith, captained the South African U-19 cricket team to win the 2014 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Meanwhile, Proteas batsman Rassie van der Dussen, is in doubt for Monday’s fixture at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. He strained a groin muscle during Wednesday’s defeat to India at the same venue.
It means Markram could get a game either at the expense of Amla or the potentially injured van der Dussen. Odds of 5.5 with Unibet on Markram top scoring for South Africa are appealing for a player who rarely dazzles but has a habit of playing steady innings.
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Beuran Hendricks, having arrived on Friday from Cape Town , forms part of the Proteas’ having to find a way to look to the future. It is grossly unfair to expect a two-cap rookie , who replaces a legend of the modern game, Dale Steyn, to transform a campaign that is hanging by a tread.
Hendricks is likely to take the new ball with Rabada against the Windies, due to Ngidi still suffering from a hamstring strain sustained last Sunday against Bangladesh at The Oval.
It will possibly be at the expense of left-arm spinner Shamsi, who went wicketless and conceded 54 tuns off nine overs in the six-wicket defeat against India last Wednesday.
Although Shamsi has been successful against the Windies before, and is a regular pick in the Caribbean Premier League, the Proteas seem now to have settled on playing two all-rounders after Chris Morris’ dominant display against Virat Kohli’s men with both bat and ball.