News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » Cricket » Can Proteas Overcome Flaws In Semis?

Can Proteas Overcome Flaws In Semis?

November 09, 2023 11:29 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

IMAGE: South Africa face Australia for a place in the final. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

South Africa, the team that have historically underperformed at World Cups, have enthralled cricket lovers in this edition of the mega tournament.

With a squad that boasts a strong batting line-up and a bowling attack that could rip through any team, the Proteas have done justice to their World No. 3 ODI ranking.

At the 2019 World Cup, playing under Faf du Plessis, South Africa failed to qualify for the semis. But this time they have booked a final four berth and how!

They started the tournament on a high, putting on the board the highest innings score of this tournament (428 for 5) in the opening match against Sri Lanka to kickstart their tournament with a 102 run win.

Among their other victories was a 190 run win against New Zealand -- their first win over the Kiwis at the Men's Cricket World Cup since 1999.

With five wins in seven matches -- a shock loss against The Netherlands and a mauling at the hands of a marauding India, their only stumbling blocks -- the Temba Bavuma-led South Africa look like a team ready to wrap their palms around that elusive trophy.

And so convincing are the Proteas that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told Bavuma last week that he will travel to India to watch them play in the final!

IMAGE: Opener Quinton de Kock has given the Proteas blazing starts while batting first. He's already hit four centuries in the tournament. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

With a win percentage of 75, 82 sixes, eight individual hundreds and four 350+ team totals, the Proteas have thus far given all indications of a team intent to shake of the choker's tag and own their space in the annals of cricketing history.

Save for Captain Bavuma's form, South Africa's batting has been exceptional in this World Cup.

Opener Quinton de Kock, who will hang up his boots and gloves after the World Cup, has lit up the tournament with his effortless big hitting. He has hit four centuries already and is the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 550 runs, and before Australian Glenn Maxwell bludgeoned an unbeaten 201 against Afghanistan on Tuesday, de Kock had the highest individual score of 174 (vs Bangladesh).

Rassie van der Dussen has shown glimpses of power hitting with a range of big shots at the No. 3 position. The middle order comprising Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and all-rounder Marco Jansen have all contributed to South Africa's brilliant run in a major way.

IMAGE: Marco Jansen has picked 17 wickets in the World Cup so far. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

The bowlers have been imperious form with Marco Jansen consistently providing the team breakthroughs inside the first Powerplay. With 17 wickets to his name, he is third in the list of highest wicket-takers this World Cup.

They have the ever dependable Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi also chipping in with the wickets. Keshav Maharaj has been impressive with his left arm orthodox spinners, quietly keeping the opposition in check while breaking partnerships mid-innings.

Taking all this into consideration, South Africa look formidable alright, but if they are to take down an inconsistent Australia for a place in the final, they have a few questions to ask of themselves.

All the wins -- save the one against Pakistan -- have come batting first. They scraped home by one wicket against Pakistan having been set 271 to win -- Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi pulling off a great escape.


IMAGE: Quinton de Kock bowled by Mohammed Siraj. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Chasing targets has been their Achilles heel throughout the tournament.

The same batters who've plundered the bowling and scored daddy hundreds batting first, have resembled pale shadows of themselves chasing targets. Lack of clarity in approach while chasing and an absence of substantial partnerships and inability to understand conditions, have put paid to their efforts.

The batters have struggled on slower wickets and have been outfoxed by spinners.

'The conditions are the biggest learning. The wicket played as we suspected it to play; we expected it to deteriorate, but we did not adapt well. It will be up to us to adapt our skills accordingly,' Bavuma said after the loss against India.

IMAGE: Keshav Maharaj has bowled economical spells while taking partnership-breaking wickets. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

South Africa's bowlers have also come undone while bowling first. The pace trio of Jansen, Rabada and Ngidi have got the early breakthroughs, but it is their late-middle and death overs bowling that has hurt them.

In the loss to The Netherlands, the Dutch plundered 68 runs in the last five overs, while an otherwise successful Jansen was clobbered for runs in the opening Powerplay. Against Pakistan, they allowed partnerships to bloom in the middle overs, giving them a way to claw back into the game and set a par score,

The pacers have struggled to make concrete impact bowling first and South Africa's Coach Rob Walter reasoned after the India match: 'We have been able to swing the ball, the new ball, and most of the time we've been doing it at night (bowling second). Bowling first, there wasn't as much swing as we've been used to.'

Maharaj conceded that against India, the bowlers bowled too many 'bad balls' and could not execute their plans. Also, the management's decision to play two spinners, instead of paceman Gerald Coetzee, who has been among the wickets, did the Proteas in.

IMAGE: South Africa face Afghanistan on Friday and should use the game as a prep for the semi-final against Australia. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Among South Africa's other problems is the leaking of extras -- they bowled 26 extras including 22 wides against India and a whopping 31 extras against The Netherlands. Save for the game against New Zealand (12), they have bowled 15 or more extras in every game.

Fielding has also been a problem with dropped catches and a few ground fielding efforts not up to the mark.

The Proteas will have to iron out their flaws before the semi-final against Australia.

With a game in hand against Afghanistan on Friday, November 10, ahead of the semis, the Proteas have an excellent platform to execute changes and challenge themselves by doing whatever hasn't worked for them.

Bavuma's boys are theoretically just two games away from crowning glory and all they need is a switch in mindset and willingness to adapt.

Get Rediff News in your Inbox: