After another loss while chasing a total, AB de Villiers admitted that maybe the team is not as good as it thinks it is. The Proteas have just one more Pool game to crank the intensity back up before the knockouts roll around. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Another day, another loss when chasing. That was the case for South Africa when they were beaten by Pakistan on Saturday. While it might be possible to manipulate statistics, the numbers are heavily stacked against South Africa when it comes to their chasing record.
Since the start of January 2013, South Africa have won just nine of the 23 matches in which they have chased. Equally concerning is the lack of substantial partnerships when batting second. Of the current squad, there have been just five century partnerships when batting second since January 2013. In World Cups, the South Africans have lost four out of the last five games in which they have batted second.
South Africa are quite clearly still vulnerable under pressure. Despite having a wealth of talent at their disposal, they have botched two chases in the World Cup now – both against two of the “bigger” teams. The first loss, against India, was in a tough chase, but against Pakistan, they were undone going after a modest target. Were it not for AB de Villiers’ genius, the result might have been much, much worse.
The result led AB de Villiers to lament that “maybe we’re not as good as we think we are”.
But how good do South Africa think they are, exactly? De Villiers and a few others have spoken of their belief in being able to win the Cup, but that will not be possible if they continuously fail to construct an innings when the pressure is on. They have, in recent times, performed well in crunch matches, most recently in a tri-series final against Australia in Zimbabwe last year, but perhaps there is just something about World Cups that leads to South Africa’s undoing. Considering the ghosts of chasing in World Cups past, one might suspect that there is some scarring in the team, but the captain vehemently denies this.
“If we want to, we can make it worse than it is. I won’t say there are any scars, unless we create the scars ourselves. I believe there is nothing wrong with the batting line-up, nothing wrong with the team. It’s just a matter of us pitching up and playing good cricket and wanting to play good cricket.
“I believe we can chase down any total at any time. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
While teams who bat first have generally been favoured in this World Cup, it is the way in which South Africa go about putting an innings together that is troublesome. As already mentioned, of particular concern is the absence of substantial partnerships, something the skipper admitted was a problem.
“It’s a disappointing loss that once again we seem to not get enough partnerships in pressure situations. We’ve done it in the past, but unfortunately tonight we couldn’t do that, so [it is a] very disappointing loss,” he said.
While the balance of the team remains of concern, there is no distinct absence of talent in this South African line-up, and it is only their lack of application in crunch games that will remain one of the great mysteries of the world. The fact that South Africa opted to chase against Pakistan over the weekend might hint at the fact that they are trying to rectify the mistake before it’s too late. Sure, the weather that was around might have played a role in the decision, but since there is “no practice like match practice” perhaps the decision to bat first against Pakistan was their way of trying to get that monkey off their backs. They knew that they would come under scrutiny even if the target was modest, and getting through the crunch situation would have done wonders for their confidence as the tournament heads into the business end. Now they will probably be wondering whether that decision did more harm than good.
They have one more match against the United Arab Emirates before the knockouts roll around. South Africa will need to crank up the intensity, and their mindset, back up to the levels they reached against the West Indies and Ireland – because by next week, there’s no room for error or the ghost of tournaments past to haunt them. DM
Photo: South Africa’s AB de Villiers (R) walks off the pitch next to Morne Morkel after being dismissed against Pakistan during their Cricket World Cup match in Auckland, March 7, 2015. REUTERS/Nigel Marple