South Africa were accused of sacrificing singles to chase boundaries through the early stages of their campaign, but AB de Villiers and David Miller successfully countered the argument on Thursday. Now the recipients of five century partnerships in ODI cricket, their 108-run alliance was arguably the most pedestrian of the lot – understandably so. The duo assessed the conditions and circumstances superbly, consistently rotating the strike rather than chasing the ‘release’ shots. Miller only struck two fours in his 49, while the bulk of De Villiers’ fours and sixes came during the latter half of his near century. The mature collective approach dug South Africa out of a bit of early trouble, and afforded Farhaan Behardien the opportunity to launch.2. Behardien back with a bang, thankfully
Initial thought suggested South Africa had missed a trick in not batting Behardien at first-drop, after the semi-injured Faf du Plessis was rested as a precautionary measure. Rilee Rossouw, instead, batted at three – and as it turned out, did quite well against an attack lacking genuine pace and lined with spin. Behardien, then, was best set at seven – and raced through a whirlwind half-century to typify the role of a finisher. The numeric value of that 64 not out from 31 balls, however, will take a back seat to the esoteric importance of a major confidence boost for a player otherwise maligned for his inadequacies.
3. South Africa won’t necessarily play Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals
While most likely Sri Lanka, the Proteas’ opposition for the first round of knockout matches cannot be confirmed yet. The assumption that South Africa will face Kumar Sangakkara and company at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday is prematurely based on a tight result between Pakistan and Ireland on Sunday. A mammoth victory for either the Pakistanis or the Irish could bring a Pool B run-rate greater than that achieved by AB de Villiers’ men, significantly changing the composition of the quarter-finals. Improbable, but marginally possible.
4. De Kock didn’t walk – and won’t be pushed either
All the talk of Quinton de Kock dropping down the order amounted to diddly squat, as the under-fire left-hander continued to open the batting at the Westpac Stadium. Another failure ensued, but at least he reached double figures this time. South Africa were comfortable enough carrying this veritable passenger through the group stages. He would have been benched already if he was purely a batsman and De Villiers’ captaincy and primary role in the middle order wouldn’t be hampered by the addition of the wicketkeeping duties. De Villiers’ post-match sentiments, too, all but confirmed the Proteas will keep sticking with De Kock – through thick or thin.
5. The proof is still in the pursuit
The decision to bat or bowl first was out of De Villiers’ hands, after United Arab Emirates won the toss, but the fact remains: South Africa will go into the quarter-finals without a successful chase under their belts in the group stage. Four wins batting first, and twin losses chasing doesn’t bode well for the business end of the tournament. Herschelle Gibbs summed it up best on Twitter: ‘Not much accomplished there, a week to the q’final.’