Take the win and leave town was the plan and South Africa did what was needed, picking up their first win of the World Cup, by nine wickets against Afghanistan in Cardiff, writes GARY LEMKE.
Perhaps the win is the only stat that really matters, but it’s also worth looking at a couple of others when it has come to beating Afghanistan in this World Cup.
Sri Lanka needed 32.4 overs to bowl them out for 152.
South Africa needed 34.1 overs to bowl them out for 125.
Australia needed 38.2 overs to bowl them out for 207.
New Zealand needed 41.1 overs to bowl them out for 172.
So, the Proteas bowlers, for whom Imran Tahir took 4-29, Chris Morris 3-13, Andile Phehlukwayo 2-18 and Kagiso Rabada 1-36, did the job and gave the batsmen the opportunity to knock off the 127 D/L runs required quickly, to help their nett run rate which the stattos reckon could yet become important the deeper this competition goes. But, South Africa took longer than expected (28.4 overs at 4.38 runs per over) in getting to the target for the loss of Quinton de Kock (68).
Mathematically, South Africa can still win this World Cup. To do so they need to beat New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and then win the semi-final and final. The chances of them doing so however are rated at 50-1 by bookmakers. It’s pretty much like saying Newcastle United can win the English Premiership next season. And, mathematically they can. But it’s not going to happen.
And, given a batting line-up which is yet to convince, perhaps 100-1 for South Africa to win the trophy are more realistic odds than 50-1.
Because as good as your bowlers are you need to have the batsmen to win World Cups and despite the margin of victory, Hashim Amla (41no off 83 balls) struggled for timing and form and the Proteas’ top-order is inferior to that of others we have seen, with England and India leading the way.
Their fifth match of the campaign, which came after three defeats and a rained-out encounter, against West Indies, was always going to be one that South Africa were going to find it tough making the big guns in the competition sit up and take notice.
Fail to convincingly beat the weakest team in the 10-match tournament would lead to further criticism of the squad, who had come under fire for a rabbit in headlights approach with the bat, in particular.
However, they could do no more than win and they beat the minnows more convincingly than Australia and New Zealand did earlier in this World Cup. Which suggests, for now, that they have managed to hit the reboot button. Almost as if their campaign started in the fifth match, but perhaps a matter of too little too late.
At least the rain stayed away in Cardiff, despite two rain breaks which took the players off the field at 33-0 after 5.5 overs and 69-2 after 20 overs. When they returned following the second break – and the match reduced to 48 overs each – South Africa’s bowlers quickly turned on the turbo.
Four wickets fell for one run in the space of 15 balls as Afghanistan went from 69-2 to 70-6 and then Morris, the best bowler on display, later returned to wrap up the innings.
In chasing down the target De Kock recorded his second half-century of the tournament and got better the longer he stayed, but Amla continues to look out-of-touch – and gun shy against the short ball.
So, it was one of those matches. We all knew that coach Ottis Gibson had put his faith in his bowlers winning this World Cup and while things didn’t go according to plan – not helped by injuries to Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi – at least they have managed to fight another day. And that day comes against New Zealand on Wednesday, where it will be a case of ‘go big or go home’.