South Africa have done it. They have won their first-ever knockout match in a World Cup. They will now travel to Auckland to face the winner out of New Zealand and the West Indies. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from Wednesday’s emphatic win.
Taking ten wickets, restricting the opposition to 133, and winning while chasing – with over 30 overs still to spare. If you had told anybody that this was what South Africa would do in the quarterfinals of a World Cup at the start of the tournament, many would have called the men in white coats.
But here we are, and many of us (including a certain writer on these pages) are stuffing our faces with humble pie. South Africa seems to have finally turned the corner that they were crashing into during the pool stages. An emphatic win over one of the best batting line-ups in the tournament is in the bag, and suitcases can now be packed for a trip to Auckland. We’ve picked five talking points from the nine-wicket demolition job South Africa completed over Sri Lanka.
Dale Steyn gets pumped up
If Dale Steyn is not bowling at 150km/h in every match and taking at least three wickets, many assume something is wrong with him. No accusations can be thrown around after his fiery spells against Sri Lanka on Wednesday. Steyn was back to being fast and furious and nearly popped a vein when celebrating the wicket of Tillakararne Dilshan. If he was slumbering, he has now woken up – and may mercy be bestowed on anybody who might tick him off in the next encounter. He was well supported by Kyle Abbott extracting swing and Morne Morkel finding his mojo, and South Africa’s bowling attack reaped the rewards.
Quinton de Kock picks the best time to get it right
Sometimes the selectors get things very wrong, and they are rightly lambasted for it. But with Quinton de Kock, they got it so very right. Many pundits and critics were calling for De Kock to get the chop after his woeful showing in the Pool stages. He looked lost and incompetent, but his team and the selectors persisted with him. It would have been easy to tell De Villiers to take over the gloves while Rilee Rossouw came in to open, but the selectors knew that De Kock just need a little bit of TLC and patience. On Wednesday, he looked like the player he was before picking up an ankle injury that nearly ruled him out of the World Cup. With young players like De Kock, it takes a big effort to get them out of a slump that it seems they may never escape, and the belief from selectors would have played a massive role in getting his groove back.
What now of selection in the semi-final?
It was expected that Vernon Philander would be in the starting XI, but it was Kyle Abbott who marked his run-up as the teams were warming up. Philander’s hamstring apparently flared up again, so it was the Dolphins man who got the nod. Abbott, who prior to the start of the World Cup had a torrid record, applied himself as aptly as he had for the duration of the competition. He exploited the little swing that was on offer and continued to impress as one of the best bowlers at the tournament. South Africa also rewarded Rossouw for his impressive form, but will once again face a tricky selection in the knockouts. Philander offers more with the bat than Abbott, and New Zealand conditions will be more suited to Philander. There is no way they can accommodate that, however, unless they go bold, playing five bowlers and dropping Rossouw.
The first-ever win in a World Cup knockout
It seems astonishing that it took until now for South Africa to win a knockout game in a World Cup, but so it is. AB de Villiers boldly declared the day prior to the match that they would not be choking, just be playing good cricket. His prophecy came true and it was all thanks to an incredible team effort. From cramping Kumar Sangakkara – the top run-scorer of the tournament – for room, giving him no opportunity to score, to the aggression from the opening bowlers up front, and the batsmen knocking off a modest total without even blinking, it was as perfect a performance as South Africa could have hoped to deliver. Is the monkey now finally off their back? Nobody can tell; this team seems as unpredictable as Pakistan.
The magical spin twins
Imran Tahir and JP Duminy were exceptional in their execution on Wednesday. Duminy tied down the left handers, Tahir attacked. Tahir used his variation and Duminy used his flight. It was the unlikeliest of bowling pairs to lead South Africa to victory, especially considering that the opposition hailed from the subcontinent, but they have clearly put in the hard yards to make sure they (and the team) peak at the right time. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Quinton de Kock celebrates reaching fifty runs during the Cricket World Cup quarter-final match against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed