Sport

CWC 2023 ANALYSIS

Proteas’ shock defeat to Netherlands has made their World Cup journey that much harder

Proteas’ shock defeat to Netherlands has made their World Cup journey that much harder
Gerald Coetzee of South Africa reacts during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and the Netherlands at HPCA Stadium on 17 October 2023 in Dharamshala, India. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

The Proteas have relinquished their early head start in the Cricket World Cup after their shock defeat to the Netherlands.

The Proteas were comprehensively outplayed by 38 runs by the Dutch in their third Cricket World Cup (CWC) match on Tuesday.

It was a match South Africa were expected to win and win convincingly.

Their prospective journey to the knockout stage of the tournament has just become exponentially more difficult.

South Africa were poor with the ball, insisting on a back-of-a-length slower ball ploy to Dutch tailenders, who deposited the white leather with ease, something head coach Rob Walter recognised after the match.

“Strategically we might have just got a few things wrong,” he said. “Maybe we got our ratios wrong in terms of the slower balls versus hard length on pace deliveries.

“It’s obviously much easier to say in hindsight … We need to brush up on our death [bowling]. I don’t have to point out the obvious, the numbers are there.”

South Africa failed with the bat too, bowled out for 207 runs in 42.5 overs.

South Africa’s remaining matches are against England, Bangladesh, Pakistan, New Zealand, India and Afghanistan.

The Proteas need a total of at least six wins to reach the semifinal stage. With two wins under their belt already, it means they can only falter two more times – possibly.

Wins against Bangladesh and Afghanistan – the two lowest-ranked sides left in the tournament – are non-negotiables. That means they have to beat two of the rest (England, New Zealand, India and Pakistan), none of which will be an easy task.

England, defending World Cup champions, have already lost to Afghanistan and will be eager to get their campaign back on track against South Africa on Saturday.

New Zealand are the form team of the tournament with four wins from four and look to have all their bases covered.

Playing against India at Eden Gardens with a 68,000-capacity stadium chanting for the home side is going to be a massive challenge. And Pakistan are the No 1 ranked ODI team in the world with No 1 ranked batter Babar Azam in their ranks.

Somewhere, the Proteas need to find at least two victories against those four championship-quality teams. But for a team desperate to clinch a World Cup, it’s necessary to overcome.

Inevitable

Even though South Africa were exceptional in their first two matches – a 102-run win over Sri Lanka and a 132-run win over Australia – a batting collapse at some stage in the nine-match round-robin stage was inevitable.

There’s a reason South Africa scraped directly through to the World Cup via the World Cup Super League, where they finished eighth and just missed out on playing the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in April this year.

Netherlands made it through the qualifiers to get to the World Cup.

“As I said before the World Cup started, I don’t think there’s any weak teams in this tournament,” Walter said.

“If you’re not switched on and you don’t win the key moments in the game you find yourself on the wrong side of the result, and we learnt that today.”

South Africa have been inconsistent in ODI cricket over the last three years, losing a home series to Bangladesh, an away series against Sri Lanka and tying an away series against Ireland.

The Netherlands’ Logan van Beek celebrates the wicket of David Miller of South Africa during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between South Africa and Netherlands at HPCA Stadium on 17 October 2023 in Dharamshala, India. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia / Gallo Images)

Lack of batting depth

The Proteas are also extremely reliant on their top six. Although the batters are statistically one of the best units in the world, there is very little back-up from No 7 down.

Walter has waxed lyrical about the talent of Marco Jansen and while there is no denying his potential, at this stage of his career and development, batting at No 7 is at least one spot too high for the talented all-rounder.

David Miller, who top scored for South Africa with 43 runs off 53 balls, was batting with No 8 Gerald Coetzee before he played an ugly slog across the line off the last ball of the 31st over and was castled by Logan van Beek.

South Africa were 145 for seven when he departed with 12 overs left and 100 more runs required. While the situation wasn’t dire before Miller lost his wicket, all hope ended with his departure.

Miller’s dismissal came through a combination of Dutch pressure and lack of trust in South Africa’s late-order hitters – although Coetzee (22 off 23) and Keshav Maharaj (40 off 37) played tidy hands when the match was over.

South Africa’s lack of batting depth was exposed at the most inopportune moment.

“We have to keep our consistency up. We can’t put our eggs in one basket. It takes our batting, bowling and fielding to win games, not just one part,” Walter said about the side’s reliance on its batting.

“You can pick apart results like this, but ultimately, we weren’t good enough, specifically at the back end of the innings and at the start with the bat. That put us on the back foot.”

The Proteas next face England on Saturday. Both sides are coming off shock defeats and will look to put in an improved performance. DM

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