Proteas begin World Cup campaign with win against Sri Lanka in New Delhi batting bonanza

South Africa's Gerald Coetzee celebrates with teammate Aiden Markram after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Dunith Wellalage during their Cricket World Cup match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Money Sharma/AFP

South Africa's Gerald Coetzee celebrates with teammate Aiden Markram after taking the wicket of Sri Lanka's Dunith Wellalage during their Cricket World Cup match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Money Sharma/AFP

Published Oct 7, 2023


Who is going to want to be a bowler at this ICC World Cup?

There will certainly not be many takers after last night’s batting bonanza in Delhi that yielded 754 runs, the highest aggregate in World Cup history. The sum total included 105 boundaries - another World Cup record-breaking feat.

And this all at a ground that is notoriously low scoring and had in fact not seen a 300-plus total since the last World Cup here 12 years ago.

But the Arun Jaitley Stadium now boasts the highest World Cup total. Fastest World Cup hundred and three individual hundreds in an innings for the first time ever. All of these records blown up by those wielding willows in Proteas green.

Sri Lanka also had their moments, particularly through the belligerent Kusal Mendis, and a tail that just kept on wagging.

But South Africa’s power-packed batting unit delivered an emphatic enough statement to lay claim that if their bowling unit finds a way to stay calm amidst the chaos that is likely to unfold every game on these batter-friendly Indian pitches, this could potentially be the start of something special.

Quinton de Kock certainly looks like a man determined to go deep at his final World Cup. Perhaps it was the early loss of his captain Temba Bavuma (8) to arguably the only ball that swung all day, but De Kock uncharacteristically knuckled down to put the building blocks in place that earned him the right to later unleash his customary fury.

The result was a first-ever World Cup century, coming off 83 balls, with the second fifty utilising just 22 balls.

Often reserved upon reaching a milestone, De Kock let off a loud scream and jumped into the air to acknowledge his teammates, and the healthy crowd that had been chanting “De Kock! De Kock! De Kock” for the duration of the latter part of his innings.

Not since former Proteas captain AB de Villiers, better known as “ABD” in the Indian capital, has a South African received such an ovation.

The emotion of it all proved too much for De Kock though as he perished the very next ball, simultaneously bringing to an end a marvellous 204-run partnership for the second wicket with Rassie van der Dussen (106, 110 balls, 14x4, 3x6).

Considering De Kock’s brilliance and the carnage that was to follow when Aiden Markram walked out to the middle, it is easy to overlook the critical importance of Van der Dussen to the Proteas batting unit.

Seldom flustered Van der Dussen plays the game at his tempo. He knows when to keep the handbrake up. Equally, he knows when it's time for full throttle. And significantly it's all achieved through low-risk textbook cricket shots interspersed with calculated reverse-sweeps. He too was fully deserving of a first-ever World Cup century after missing out by just five runs against Australia in Manchester four years ago.

Last, but definitely not least is Markram. A precocious talent for so many years, the 29-year-old is intent on making up for lost time. And he is in a hurry too, as his record 49-ball century which eclipsed Kevin O’Brien’s 50-ball mark set in Bangalore back in 2011, denotes.

From the moment Markram displayed a full face of the blade to drive left-arm seamer Dilshan Madushanka for consecutive boundaries down the ground it was a batting exhibition of the highest order.

“As far as batting goes, it was a perfect day out for us,” Van der Dussen said. “(The ball) was swinging up front. It was pretty hot out there, and (Wellalage) found a nice length, bowling it into the wicket. Once he found that, he made it tough for us in the middle. I needed to go to alternative options.

“We just really try and play the conditions to be honest. Quinny and I batted normally for a large part of the innings. We know what the guys coming in can do. (Heinrich) Klaasen, Markram and (David) Miller are some of the best finishers in the world currently, and Markram, when he plays like that, is incredible to watch.”

Sri Lanka’s chase was improbable from the outset, which Marco Jansen emphasised by clean bowling Pathum Nissanka in the first over.

But while Mendis was swinging from the hip with the ball flying in all directions, there was a brief period where the Proteas showed they still have a soft underbelly when the pressure valve is turned up.

Lines and lengths were missed and catches were spilled, but a couple of timely strikes from Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj and Gerald Coetzee ensured Charith Asalanka and Dasun Shanaka were not going to pull off an unlikely heist as the Proteas got their World Cup campaign up and running.


South Africa 428/5 (Van der Dussen 108, Markram 106, De Kock 100, Madushanka 2/86)

Sri Lanka 326 all out (Asalanka 79, Mendis 76, Shanaka 68, Coetzee 3/68, Rabada 2/50)

South Africa won by 102 runs


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