Cape Town - Who is expecting a stellar finish, from their two largely token remaining fixtures, to lowly South Africa's World Cup 2019?
You may struggle to find enthusiastic takers, especially as the final one is against an Australian outfit who have roared to the top of the points table with six victories from seven dates thus far.
The ninth-placed Proteas try to climb back onto the horse to some degree, despite their now confirmed elimination, against Sri Lanka on Friday (Chester-le-Street, 11:30 SA time).
Sticking out like a sore thumb, amidst the carnage of their showing thus far as a collective unit, is how few of their individuals - including those most anticipated to feature forcefully - have popped up prominently in the key statistical charts at the event.
The grave danger exists, and it would only confirm their worst World Cup in a total of eight, that the Proteas will depart it for the first time in their CWC history with no single player from their ranks cracking the top five in either of the “most runs” or “most wickets” categories.
Yes, at least one of those completed lists has always featured one South African (or occasionally more) in their 27 years of participation in World Cups.
While the country’s CWC jinx is well known, they have often enough been competitive to advanced stages.
But this year’s has been a nadir both as a collective and for individual contribution: it seems a forlorn hope now for anyone in Proteas colours to finish as a batting or bowling top-fiver, particularly as South Africa won’t enjoy any knockout-phase activity.
The batting situation is the more pitiful of the two: Quinton de Kock is the country’s heaviest contributor with 238 runs at an average of 39.66, making him a distant 13th overall … way behind premier factor David Warner of Australia, who has reached exactly 500 at 83.33.
On the bowling front, one of few SA shining lights so far, veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir, has 10 wickets to lie seventh overall, three off fifth-placed Mark Wood (England) but also nine behind the leader, another Aussie player in Mitchell Starc.
But Tahir may have to be ridiculously productive in the two remaining games to have any chance of cracking the final top five.
So an ignominious statistical first seems simply waiting to happen for the 2019 Proteas.
Here is a reminder of the South Africans who have always ensured the country being among the leading handfuls of performers, through weight of runs or wickets, at earlier World Cups:
CWC 2015: AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel
Renowned thrill factor De Villiers generated 482 runs at an eye-opening 96.40 to be third; leader Martin Guptill (NZ) scored 547, but at a much lower average of 68.37. Meanwhile lanky strike bowler Morkel recorded 17 wickets (average 17.58), making him joint fourth highest pole-grabber with Mohammed Shami of India.
CWC 2011: Robin Peterson
South Africa’s sometimes under-appreciated, thinking left-arm spinner performed with great credit on the Subcontinent, landing 15 wickets from seven appearances, making him joint fourth-best finisher as bowler with India’s versatile Yuvraj Singh.
CWC 2007: Jacques Kallis
Another “up and down” sort of World Cup for the Proteas this may have been, but long-time master batsman Kallis managed to sneak fifth in the total runs pecking order, with 485 at 80.83 (Matthew Hayden’s 659 were at a lower average of 73.22).
CWC 2003: Herschelle Gibbs
This probably goes down as SA’s worst World Cup, outside of the current stinker, although the charismatic Gibbs lashed 384 tournament runs on home soil, at average 96, from only six knocks, for fifth berth: leading factor Sachin Tendulkar amassed 673, but he also had the benefit of 11 innings.
CWC 1999: Lance Klusener
The inspirational all-rounder ended up as worthy winner of the Player of the Tournament mantle, despite SA’s gut-wrenching semi-final exit. Apart from cracking the bowling top five with his 17 strikes (to end fourth in the category) he also kept adding hugely valuable gusto at the back end of innings.
CWC 1996: Gary Kirsten
Although greatly aided by his 188 not out against minnows the UAE, the gritty left-hander (and later India and SA head coach) compiled 391 tournament runs to bag fourth spot behind only Tendulkar (top, 523), Mark Waugh and Aravinda de Silva.
CWC 1992: Peter Kirsten
As if to highlight just what a loss he was to broad international cricket during his heyday, which coincided with SA’s apartheid-caused isolation period, Kirsten, well into his 37th year, still illuminated South Africa’s enormously brave maiden World Cup with consistent success at the crease: 410 runs from eight knocks for third-highest run scorer, eclipsed by only Martin Crowe and Javed Miandad.
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