SA’s credentials are dented, but India raises hope of third World Cup triumph
India flexed their muscles as the overwhelming favourites to win the 2023 Cricket World Cup, while the Proteas’ credentials were dented.
It was meant to be a battle between the two World Cup heavyweights, but the manner in which South Africa was blown away by India on Sunday illustrated the gulf between the hosts and the rest of the teams competing at the 2023 tournament.
Three days after they skittled out Sri Lanka for just 55 runs to record a huge 302-run victory over the 1996 World Cup champions, India’s batting and bowling were once again on fire at Eden Gardens.
A century from Virat Kohli and a five-wicket haul from Ravindra Jadeja spurred the host nation to a 243-run win over South Africa – their heaviest ever World Cup defeat.
South Africa arrived in Kolkata with high hopes of defeating India, considering that they had won six of their previous seven matches and also enjoyed the kudos of being the only team to have beaten India when the Asian side last hosted the tournament in 2011.
Read more in Daily Maverick: De Kock and Van der Dussen tons lead Proteas to massive win over New Zealand
On that occasion India imploded and lost their last six wickets for 13 runs as South Africa secured a three-wicket win with two balls to spare, in a group-stage match in Nagpur.
Bowled out by India
Twelve years on and South Africa suffered the ignominy of being bowled out by India for 83 – their lowest ever total in a 50-over World Cup.
“The first 10 overs with the ball made it a challenge,” said South Africa captain Temba Bavuma, whose side struggled to contain a rampant Indian side, which reached 61-0 after five overs and then 91-1 after 10 overs.
“Biggest challenge was taking wickets and India built big stands. The conditions are the biggest learning. Wicket played as we suspected it to play – expected it to deteriorate but we didn’t adapt well. It will be up to us to adapt our skills accordingly.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Kohli and Jadeja secure India’s record Cricket World Cup victory over pedestrian Proteas
Inevitably India did not sustain the early 12.2 or 9.10 run rates over 50 overs, but a rock solid 101 off 121 balls from Kohli, who scored a record-equalling 49th ODI century to draw level with Sachin Tendulkar’s milestone, set the South Africans a daunting victory target of 327.
Battle for SA survival
From the moment opener Quinton de Kock perished in the second over for five, the battle for survival proved to be a difficult one for South Africa, with seven of their batsmen failing to reach double figures.
“Going hard in the first 10 (overs) isn’t something we’ve discussed. That’s how (Shubman) Gill and I have batted together. We let our instincts take over,” said India captain Rohit Sharma, whose unbeaten side are guaranteed to finish top of the World Cup group standings, after winning their eighth successive match.
“If the wicket is good, we keep going and things fall in place. Kohli batted to the situation… Jadeja has been really good. Big matchwinner. He keeps doing the job, goes under the radar. But today is a classic case of what he does – score late runs and take wickets.”
Although both sides had already qualified for the semi-finals before Sunday’s showdown, the result at Eden Gardens has raised hopes that come 19 November, India will be lifting the 50-over World Cup trophy for a third time, following their triumphs in 1983 and 2011.
“When we turn up, we want to play to our potential,” Rohit summed up.
South Africa were let down by their skills in a team record 243-run loss to hosts India at the Cricket World Cup on Sunday, but with a semi-final place already booked there will be no panic in the camp, says coach Rob Walter.
Walter believes his side did not come close to putting their best foot forward on an off day.
“To be fair, it is just a day that we were out-skilled,” Walter told reporters. “I didn’t feel that was a 320 pitch, it was too much on that deck, and then from a bowling point of view they put us under pressure right from the word go.
“They are a helluva team, very well balanced and highly skilled. There’s no way around it. They’ve won every game and they’ve won them well.”
It is a result that laid bare an undeniable truth about this South African side – they struggle chasing targets.
The side has five dominant wins batting first, easily passing 300 on each occasion, but have lost to the Netherlands and India chasing, and scraped home by one wicket against Pakistan, having been set 271 to win.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas are delivering near-flawless games, but can they cut to the chase?
Walter says fielding first against India was also a hindrance for his bowlers.
“We have been able to swing the ball, the new ball, and most of the time we’ve been doing it at night (bowling second). Bowling first, there wasn’t as much swing as we’ve been used to,” he said.
South Africa play Afghanistan next on Friday, a chance to regain some confidence and form, going into their semi-final.
Should his side meet India again in the tournament, Walter says there is no reason why they cannot win.
“This is a funny game and you get taught new lessons and are surprised every single day,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the tables turned next time around.
“The beauty of it is that there may well be another shot for us and we’ve been given an opportunity to learn.” Reuters/DM