The two thumping wins over Sri Lanka and Australia were performances to remember, but it’s just as important to not forget how bad the Proteas were against the Netherlands in their deflating Cricket World Cup defeat on Tuesday.
I feel a rain-shortened match didn’t play in favour of South Africa, as it negated some of their potential advantage in a full 50-over contest. That said, the Netherlands were excellent in the 43-over per side contest as they posted 245/8 before restricting the much-fancied South Africa to 207 all out.
Almost halfway into their innings, the Dutch had fallen to 82/5 after 20.2 overs. That soon became 112/6 after 27 overs. That should have seen the Proteas go for the jugular to restrict the Netherlands to no more than 180.
The fact that former Proteas player Roelof van der Merwe (29 from 19 balls) played a key role in helping the Dutch, only served to make watching the flailing Proteas attack all the more painful.
Proteas weren’t ruthless
In fact, the best score among the top six Netherlands batsmen was 20. With number seven, wicketkeeper skipper, Scott Edwards top scoring with 78 not out from 69 it meant the remaining four batsmen combined for 140 runs. The eighth wicket stand of 64 from 37 between Edwards and Van der Merwe completely changed the complexion of the contest.
Though the Proteas started well in their chase as Temba Bavuma (16) and Quinton de Kock (20) put on 36 for the first wicket - they soon fell to 44/4. The worst of those dismissals in my opinion was Rassie van der Dussen as he reverse swept a Van der Merwe delivery straight to Aryan Dutt at backward point. That shot, for me, epitomised the Proteas performance on the day - lacking in planning and poor in execution.
It was a bizarre display from the Proteas, who had been so impressive in their first two matches against Sri Lanka and Australia. It even prompted comments from Proteas legend AB de Villiers to talk up this side’s chances, saying they don’t have the baggage of previous teams.
Others also said that this Proteas team didn’t possess the superstars of the past sides, but with this I also disagree. The top six of the Proteas has been described as the most capable at this tournament, and for good reason.
Heinrich Klaasen is widely regarded as one of the best players of spin in the world with an impressive showing in this year’s Indian Premier League. David Miller is also playing some of the best cricket of his career, finally delivering on his massive potential.
De Kock started the World Cup with two successive centuries, much like the three tons he scored in just his second season for the Proteas back in 2013.
Of course, De Kock will be walking away from ODI cricket after this World Cup at the age of 30 having already calling it quits from Test cricket in 2021. In De Kock, the Proteas have a match-winner of the highest calibre - and he surely has a couple more top knocks waiting in his willow before this World Cup is over.
Bavuma, as the leader of the team, has an incredible influence on his side as he has proven himself as a strong leader. He has also been in great form in 2023, having already scored three centuries and two 50s for an average of 63 this year. In the World Cup, he has only managed scores of 8, 35 and 16 - but you have to feel the runs will surely begin to flow soon.
Aiden Markram already a standout
Aiden Markram, meanwhile, has already been one of the standout Proteas batsman as he began the tournament with the fastest century ever recorded at a men’s 50-over Cricket World Cup.
The Proteas bowling lineup, though they are missing the injured Anrich Nortje and Sisanda Magala still boast incredible ability - led by a superstar in his own right, Kagiso Rabada. Rabada is backed up by Lungi Ngidi, Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen who form an attack that should strike fear into any batting lineup at this World Cup. Add in spin twins Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, and the Proteas should have a bowling lineup that can complement their batsmen to great effect.
The trick will lie in how all these cogs in the Proteas engine combine, and SA cricket fans will hope that the Netherlands debacle was nothing more than a blip on the radar. With England lying in wait on Saturday, we should find out soon enough.
* The views expressed are not necessarily the views of IOL or Independent Media.
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