Don’t panic if you lose early wickets, and stick to your plan. That is the gist of the advice former captain AB de Villiers has for the Proteas if they have to bat second and chase in tomorrow’s Cricket World Cup semi-final against Australia in Kolkata.
The South Africans will step onto the Eden Gardens pitch hoping to end years of heartache in the knockouts, with defeats in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Play will start at 10.30am, SA time.
De Villiers captained the Proteas in the 2015 tournament, where they lost to New Zealand in the Auckland semi-final, and is hopeful that the class of 2023 can get past the Aussies and make the final.
But one issue that has cropped up in what has been a superb campaign in India has been the batting line-up’s struggles chasing down scores.
The Proteas have been outstanding when batting first, notching up totals of 428, 311, 399, 382 and 357. In contrast, they have reached 207, 271, 83 and 247 batting second – and have lost to the Netherlands and India.
They made heavy weather of Afghanistan’s modest 244 all out, scoring 247-5 in the 48th over last Friday.
That makes the toss in tomorrow’s semi-final even more important, especially as the Eden Gardens track is slower and will take more spin in the second innings. But if captain Temba Bavuma doesn’t win the toss, that doesn’t mean the Proteas will be out of the game, according to De Villiers.
“It’s now a matter of the batting unit sticking together and saying, ‘Guys, it’s time to shine’,” the former right-handed batter said on his AB de Villiers 360 YouTube channel.
“In Kolkata, it was a very important toss to win. We were all hoping for a bit of dew to come around in the second innings (against India, who dismissed SA for 83) ... it didn’t. It got slower and it started turning even more. So, it was one of those – it was a rough one. Take it on the chin and you say, ‘Well played India, you were the better team on the day’, and you move on.
“But there are some other scenarios where South Africa haven’t been chasing well, and I think Glenn Maxwell and Australia (against Afghanistan, where he scored an unbeaten 201) is the perfect example.
“There is more time in a chasing scenario than you think. Batters tend to panic quite early, so I would say chasing for South Africa, keep setting that foundation. Forget about the run rate.
“We’ve seen in India, if you have a base at the back end – even if it’s with someone like Pat Cummins – you just block out a whole over, and you can catch it up with someone like Maxi (Maxwell) at the other end.
“For South Africa, if we find ourselves under pressure, don’t panic. Keep building that foundation – it takes one partnership to turn the pressure around and apply that pressure on the opposition.
“And then the opposition start doing funny things. We saw Rashid Khan starting to panic … The whole Afghanistan team started having a go at each other … So, unfortunate for Afghanistan, but that would be my advice to South Africa. Keep building your foundation. Stay in the game, stay in the battle.”
Bavuma has been criticised for his lack of big scores at the World Cup, with his highest score in seven innings being the 35 against Australia, while he is also battling to shake off a hamstring injury. But De Villiers believes that the Proteas skipper is the right man to take charge tomorrow.
“Temba is our captain, guys … he is going nowhere. He has made some incredible leadership calls in the last while. He performs when it matters most for South Africa, and we do need someone who is a bit more solid up front.”
“There is more time in a chasing scenario than you think. Batters tend to panic quite early, so I would say chasing for SA, keep setting that foundation.