It’s not easy finding any real positives from the South African cricket team’s opening World Cup flop against England at The Oval on Thursday.
If you had to dig deep in search of positives; fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi returned from injury layoffs unscathed, half centuries from Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen looked promising, yet unspectacular, and England captain Eoin Morgan admitted they felt South Africa had restricted them to a score they thought would not be enough.
Stunning outfield catches from skipper Faf du Plessis and Aiden Markram, none of the bowlers really took stick and a captaincy gamble that worked in opening the bowling with leg-spinner Imran Tahir are a few other pluses, but for the rest it was pretty ordinary.
England, the in-form hosts and the top-ranked team, gave the Proteas a proper hiding. They beat them by 104 runs and bowled them out for just 207 with 61 balls still remaining.
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Proteas management is that they arrived in the United Kingdom not really knowing what their best starting XI is. David Miller or JP Duminy at number six? Aiden Markram or Hashim Amla to open? Dwaine Pretorius or Chris Morris as the all-rounder?
The loss certainly wouldn’t have cleared up any of those grey areas. And they don’t have too much time to reflect on the loss, as they face Bangladesh at the same venue tomorrow.
The beating aside, the tournament is long and one bad match doesn’t necessarily make you a bad team.With the format changing to that of the 1992 event, where every team plays each other in a round-robin format before the four semifinalists are determined, one poor performance is not the end of the world. Many believe five wins could get you in the knockout stage.
Six would definitely do it. Former Springbok Naas Botha once said: “The Currie Cup is not won in May”. Nor will the Cricket World Cup be won in May, but the results in June will make or break a team.
South Africa need to regroup, learn from the loss and quickly find a winning XI if they are to go where no South African team has gone before at a World Cup.