Today’s Cup game against Bangladesh needs some ‘good cricket’ from Faf’s men
For a team that has gone out of their way not to act like superheroes in their attempt to win their first cricket World Cup, the Proteas’ 104-run defeat in the tournament’s opening game against hosts England could be read in certain quarters as a case of “be careful what you wish for”.
But, to be fair to them, the number one-ranked English side, 2011 winners India, defending champions Australia and the physically imposing, not to mention explosive, West Indians fit the bill for men playing with capes in this tournament, whereas the Proteas will have to hide their light under the bushel marked dark horse.
Today’s game against Bangladesh, however, will demand that, at the very least, they find the bully within if said dark horse status is to ultimately prove prophetic.
Playing in their second outing after being outclassed by England, Faf du Plessis and his men have no choice but to get their World Cup started, a desperation shared by the captain.
“It’s important for us to look at the World Cup for what it is,” he said. “You’re going to come up against quality opposition in a league competition and, as disappointed as we are in our performance, we have to make sure we learn quickly and put every single doubt out of our heads and play good cricket again.
“For me, the thing is to make sure that the dressing room looks at areas where we got it wrong and just move on.”
Said areas where the Proteas got it wrong, Du Plessis conceded, were all three departments of the game.
While the bowlers battled manfully to contain an English side that basically bats to number 11, they took a while finding their line and length on the wicket, and as soon as they did, wickets came regularly.
On the field, they caught everything that came their way, but there was a suspicion they conceded singles they could have done without, an indiscretion exposed by how much pressure the England fielders put on the Proteas batsmen.
Batting-wise, Hashim Amla having to leave the field injured after being sconned by the lightning-quick Jofra Archer was bad luck for a team needing to chase 311, but the lack of composure that ran through the rest of the line-up – with the exception of Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen – led to a constant stream of wickets that left them needing to play like superheroes to win.
Going into the game against the seventh-ranked Bangladeshis, the advantage for the Proteas is that they are playing their second game and at the same venue where their tournament opener was played, meaning they should be more at ease with the conditions than a subcontinent side starting their campaign.
Said conditions are scattered showers through the day and cloud cover early on, meaning Du Plessis may well opt to bowl again if he wins the toss.
Speaking of the bowling attack, Du Plessis pronounced himself satisfied with their efforts, even though they leaked 300 runs against the Poms.
“I thought after the first half they did a pretty good job with the ball,” he said. “England bat longer than anybody else in this tournament. If you can stop them, you’re doing a great job. For them to score as few runs as they did in the last 15 overs and for us to pick up as many wickets during that time was a great achievement by our bowling unit.”
The big questions for the Proteas selectors will be whether Amla has recovered enough from being hit on the head to open the batting again today; who David Miller comes in for between Aiden Markram and JP Duminy, if at all; and whether they’ll persist with Dwaine Pretorius as the makeshift third quick while Dale Steyn races the clock to be fit in time for the third game of the competition.
Looking at the game itself, the Proteas – whose available bowlers are ranked fourth (Imran Tahir), fifth (Kagiso Rabada), 18th (Andile Phehlukwayo) and 26th (Lungi Ngidi) – should have too much firepower for Bangladesh and prove their theory that the way to winning this is bowling sides out for small totals.
Failure to do so will relegate them from dark horse to also-ran status.