Proteas’ lacklustre chase game under pressure could return to haunt them in World Cup
South Africa have won seven out of their last eight ODI matches. In all seven matches, they batted first. In the one they lost, against Netherlands, they elected to field first.
The victory was built on the foundation of a sensational 151-run sixth wicket partnership between Heinrich Klaasen (109 off 67 balls) and Marco Jansen (75 not out off 42 balls) which took the Proteas to a massive 399 for seven.
South Africa is currently third on the Cricket World Cup table, behind New Zealand and hosts India — who remain the only unbeaten side in the tournament.
Saturday’s win was the seventh time in the last eight One Day Internationals (ODIs) that South Africa posted over 300 in their allotted 50 overs.
The only time they failed to reach 300? In the Proteas’ 38-run World Cup loss to Netherlands last week. The big difference between the other seven matches is South Africa batted second against the Netherlands.
Captain Temba Bavuma won the toss against the Dutch and elected to field first because of the rain around Dharamshala during the clash — which restricted the match to a 43-over-a-side game.
South Africa actually lost the toss on Sunday but fortunately, England skipper Jos Buttler elected to field first, despite the excessive heat at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, a decision he regretted upon reflection.
“You always reflect after games and question your decisions,” Buttler said at the post-match press conference.
“Certainly with hindsight, the sort of physicality of that innings potentially batting first would have been a better decision but I’m not going to question to say ‘I should have done this’ or ‘I should have done that,’” the English skipper added.
“That’s the decision I took at the time and I thought it was the right one. And I still believe if we were chasing 340-350, we would have done really well [chasing] in those conditions,” he continued.
“A few things didn’t go right. Obviously, Reece [Topley] picked up a knock and [I was] unsure if he was going to come back. I thought Joe Root did a fantastic job there filling in.
“Physically it was tough. You can’t fault anyone’s efforts. But Klaasen and Jansen put together a fantastic partnership.”
Batting second in ODI cricket comes with a tremendous amount of scoreboard pressure. And in a World Cup, filled with tens of thousands of supporters, that pressure increases tenfold.
There are very few cricketers with a better record when chasing compared to setting a score.
South Africa’s batters are no exception to this. Skipper Bavuma, who has historically played his best cricket when under pressure, is the only Proteas player who averages more when chasing (64.45) than when setting a score (42.17).
Quinton de Kock (43.56 versus 46.42) and Klaasen (41.33 versus 43.16) are statistically South Africa’s next most consistent chasers.
Surprisingly, the Proteas’ dedicated finisher, David Miller is statistically the worst chaser among the out-and-out batters. He averages 47.77 when batting first and a lowly 33.29 when chasing.
South Africa will likely solely elect to bat first when they win the toss going forward in the tournament, based on their recent history.
In a World Cup knockout match — which, at this point, looks imminent early next month — the game could be decided by a literal flip of a coin. DM