They ended the tournament with a heartening 10-run victory over Australia, but CWC19 proved to be an incredibly disappointing affair for South Africa.
After coming into the tournament as the No.3 ranked side in the world, some rated South Africa as dark horses for the crown. But a horror first week meant the Proteas were never truly able to find their feet. Losses to England, Bangladesh and India – and Dale Steyn ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury – saw semi-final hopes begin to fade away at rapid speed.
A win against Afghanistan arrived but then came the heartbreak of another last-over World Cup loss to New Zealand, a masterful Kane Williamson century making things go from bad to worse. A 49-run thumping at the hands of Pakistan on 23 June sealed South Africa’s fate, and while they went on to add two wins to their collection, the 2015 semi-finalists were forced to settle for a seventh-placed finish. The manner of their final-game defeat of Australia, defeating one of the World Cup front-runners playing near their best, showed that the core of a competitive team remained.
Positives to take home
In a batting line-up that struggled to find much fluency, Rassie van der Dussen emerged as an anomaly, confirming that he is a batsman of international class. The strong right-hander hit three half-centuries and now averages 73.77 from his 14 ODI innings. He now looks set to play a significant role in South Africa’s future as plans for 2023 start to get drafted.
Captain Faf du Plessis ended the campaign with a flourish to suggest that rumours of his demise might have been premature. Quinton de Kock only showed his ability with the bat in flashes, but with the gloves he suggested he might be the best in the world, claiming some stunners and staying tidy throughout.
Areas to improve
The injury to Steyn and Lungi Ngidi’s own battle for fitness meant that South Africa were never able to utilise their full-strength pace attack. Nonetheless, with stellar names such as Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla underperforming, it was with the bat where South Africa will feel that they failed to show their true potential.
Faf du Plessis’ best innings came once South Africa were eliminated from top-four contention, while Aiden Markram remains a work in progress at ODI level. The 24-year-old played some stunning strokes for his 34 against Australia in South Africa’s final match – but fans are still waiting for his Test-match dominance to spill over into the shorter formats.
In a way, it was an odd sort of campaign for South Africa. Despite struggling as a whole, it was hard to lay the blame at any one place.
Andile Phehlukwayo continues to be a canny operator in all disciplines for South Africa. While he didn’t enjoy a stand-out performance, nine wickets with the ball and 133 runs at 33.25 with the bat in a failing side hint at a fighting spirit. Rather impressive from a 23-year-old at his first World Cup.
30 May: v England, The Oval, London – England won by 104 runs
02 June: v Bangladesh, The Oval – Bangladesh won by 21 runs
05 June: v India, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton – India won by six wickets
10 June: v West Indies, Hampshire Bowl, Southampton – No result
15 June: v Afghanistan, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff – South Africa won by nine wickets
19 June: v New Zealand, Edgbaston, Birmingham – New Zealand won by four wickets
23 June: v Pakistan, Lord’s, London – Pakistan won by 49 runs
28 June: v Sri Lanka, Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street – South Africa won by nine wickets
06 July: v Australia, Old Trafford, Manchester – South Africa won by 10 runs