There were hardly any expectations on this South African team ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 since the cracks were too wide to paper over and they are still widening. Cricket South Africa – the governing body – have been dragged to the courts by the South African Cricketers’ Association in protest at a proposed restructuring plan at the domestic level.
To make matters worse, the AB de Villiers coming off retirement saga and Kagiso Rabada’s IPL stint and whether that shouldn’t have happened took centrestage that made the Proteas a real drama product ahead of the showpiece event.
However, fans had something to smile about as South Africa concluded their campaign with consecutive victories – first a comprehensive win against Sri Lanka – and then a strong display against defending champions Australia. They finished seventh on the points table with three wins from nine matches.
World Cup record: Played 9, Won 3, Lost 5, NR 1, Points 7 – seventh in the points table
So miserable was South Africa’s campaign in this edition that it’s tough to really pin point on any high point. None of their big guns managed to fire. One to watch out for is rookie batsman Rassie van der Dussen, who cracked the top 30 of the ICC ODI rankings in the recently realised charts. The 30-year-old batsman was of a few standouts with the bat. Having narrowly missed out of a maiden international century against Australia, he finished the tournament with 311 runs – making him South Africa’s second leading run scorer after captain Faf du Plessis.
Fast bowler Rabada, who was to spearhead the bowling attack in the absence of Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi, who played just four games before being tormented by fitness woes, looked jaded with his speed ratings and statistical returns minimum. In their second match against Bangladesh which they lost by 21 runs, Rabada returned wicketless in his 10 overs going for more than five per over. Ngidi too had nothing to show in the wickets column.
In a down and out situation that South Africa find themselves in right now, there could be no other than Faf du Plessis himself to sail his team through choppy waters. When quizzed about his team, du Plessis admitted his side is a ‘mediocre’ team, but he’s determined to fix the problem. “I’ve always said the most enjoyment I get from the game is captaining the side. The fact we are playing way below our potential is not something that sits well with me. I’m trying as hard as I can, but unfortunately not everything is down to me. My character is I will try to fix as many problems as I can,” he had said.
Most valuable player
Faf du Plessis ended the campaign with three half-centuries and a ton to aggregate a total of 387 runs the highest run-scorer in the South Africa team. He didn’t look out of form despite his side’s embarrassing show. And while he looked in good touch, he missed out on the big scores.
In his final ODI assignment, the experienced JP Duminy was a real flop having managed a total of just 70 runs. There were the odd burst of brilliance in the field, but South Africa needed more from Duminy.
South African need to put this World Cup behind. The fact that they did showcase their prowess during their last win against Australia proves that there is potential, but it’s just that they didn’t turn up at the right time. They were happy smiles around, but they know that they have let their fans and their cricket down. With the next tantalising assignment being a tour of India, expect a strong comeback.
Most runs: Faf du Plessis, who scored 387 runs in nine matches at an average of 64.50 with one hundred and three fifties to his credit.
Most wickets: Chris Morris, 13 wickets in 8 matches at an economy rate of 5.35 and an average of 26.23
Highest individual score: Faf du Plessis – 100 vs Australia at Manchester
Best bowling figures: Imran Tahir, 4.29 in 7 overs against Afghanistan in Cardiff
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