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Proteas have luxury of deciding their own fate at T20 World Cup

Proteas have luxury of deciding their own fate at T20 World Cup
Kagiso Rabada bowls during the Proteas' T20 World Cup match against Bangladesh at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on 2 November 2021. (Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The Proteas are still in the running for a place in the T20 World Cup semifinals, but it’s not straightforward.

Many successful professional sports teams and athletes are dreamers, but they are also realists. And under the veneer of dreams and goals lies one indisputable truth: They want nothing more than to control their own destinies.

Chance, or luck, is not something that a driven athlete can train for and consequently it is disliked, even though all successful athletes will have some luck on their journey.

No, what they want most is to be in a position where their talent and preparation intersect with an opportunity they can still control. In the case of South Africa’s T20 World Cup campaign, they are still in a position to control their own destiny.

After Tuesday’s six-wicket win over Bangladesh – their third in the tournament out of four group-stage matches – the Proteas are second on the standings and currently in semifinal position. They have six log points, two more than the West Indies and Australia and two behind pacesetters England.

Australia and the West Indies meet on 6 November, ensuring that one of them is likely to miss out on the semis. Australia face Bangladesh before that match, where a loss could sink their hopes of making the semifinals.

Assuming Australia win both their remaining matches, the Proteas will still be in a position to make the semifinals, but in that scenario they would have to beat England, the world’s leading white-ball team. It’s not an easy route, but it’s one the Proteas at least have control over.

Net run rate 

It’s possible that England, South Africa and Australia could all finish on eight log points and therefore the two playoff places would come down to the teams with the best net run rates (NRR).

It’s a fairly complex calculation and is explained by leading cricket website ESPNCricinfo thus: “A team’s net run rate is calculated by deducting from the average runs per over scored by that team throughout the competition, the average runs per over scored against that team throughout the competition.

“In the event of a team being all out in less than its full quota of overs, the calculation of its net run rate shall be based on the full quota of overs to which it would have been entitled and not on the number of overs in which the team was dismissed.”

This calculation excludes games which are abandoned or cancelled and there are some more calculations for matches that are decided on the Duckworth/Lewis system, which is usually applied when rain forces an innings to be shortened.

Considering the 2021 T20 World Cup is taking place in the Middle East, the chance of rain complicating the calculations is unlikely, although not impossible.

Currently, England have a mammoth 3.183 NRR with the Proteas on 0.742 while Australia have a -0.627 NRR. For Australia to reach eight log points, they would have to beat both Bangladesh and the West Indies and therefore their NRR would improve.

But for South Africa to reach eight log points they would have to beat England and, of course, that would also improve their NRR. And neither Australia or South Africa are likely to come anywhere close to England’s NRR, even though it will reduce slightly should they lose to the Proteas.

Realistically, only England and South Africa can advance if NRR is the deciding factor, which is why Australia will find themselves in the curious position of supporting old enemies England against the Proteas.

Maths on their minds

It was obvious during the Proteas run chase against Bangladesh that NRR was on their minds. The Proteas dismissed Bangladesh for 84 in 18.2 overs and then reached the winning target after 13.3 overs.

Captain Temba Bavuma (31 not out off 28 balls) and Rassie van der Dussen (22 off 27 balls) started hitting out once the innings was stabilised after the Proteas wobbled at 33 for three in the chase. South Africa put a 15-over limit on reaching the target.

“That (scoring the runs inside 15 overs) was the chat,” fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who took 3-20, said after the match. “We tried to finish the game as early as possible and we’re happy with how we finished.

“There was a clear instruction that we should try and finish the game before 15 and we did that.”

Rabada also won the man of the match award and admitted afterwards that he enjoyed a relatively stress-free game. The Proteas have been involved in two last-over thrillers against Australia and Sri Lanka at the tournament.

“I don’t prefer a tight game at all,” Rabada said. “It’s too much stress. We’re glad that we won convincingly. We knew every game was going to be tough and would require so much intensity. It’s hard work, the amount of focus that you have to show; resilience, thinking on the spot.

“It takes a lot out of you. We can take confidence out of our performance as a collective heading into the England game. We know it’s going to be tough.”

But at least they will know what to do when the game starts. They will either need to win it, or not lose heavily to protect their NRR. Their destiny is in their hands. It’s all any team can ask for at the highest level. DM

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