The Proteas’ minds are probably already on the plane home following their gut-wrenching defeat by New Zealand, but they have Sunday’s clash with Pakistan and two other matches left at this World Cup to salvage some pride, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Don’t waste time and calculate different permutations or hope for miracles. The Proteas essentially have zero chance qualifying for the semi-finals after they suffered a fourth defeat of the tournament at the hands of Kane Williamson and his Black Caps.
Three points – a victory over lowly Afghanistan and the rained-out fixture against the West Indies – from six matches makes for miserable reading. But it’s not nearly as sad as their performances have been.
The Proteas have been abject at best, poor in all departments of the game and have looked like the worst-prepared South African outfit to set foot at a World Cup since 1992.
The batting has been terrible, with veterans and rookies alike playing tentatively and without much of a plan. The bowling has been slightly better, especially in the last two outings, but hasn’t been good enough to spare the blushes of the top order.
South Africa showed a lot of fight in the match against New Zealand with their tournament life on the line, but even then they were trying to punch their way off the canvas throughout that encounter. In the end, Williamson’s superb century was the body blow that crushed their ribs and, quite literally, their World Cup dreams.
But the Proteas have three matches left to win back the love of the South African public, who have also been left battered and bruised after the rollercoaster went off the rails on Wednesday.
The journey to redemption starts on Sunday against Pakistan, who, believe it or not, are actually below the Proteas in the World Cup standings.
Pakistan have again been their spectacularly enigmatic selves, and the Proteas won’t quite know what to expect. Who will pitch up? The Pakistan who capitulated against the Windies or the team who gave England a bloody nose.
The Proteas owe all South Africans a quality performance, especially with the bat. But most of all, they owe it to themselves to play with a bit of freedom after being seemingly captured by fear of failure throughout the sport’s flagship event.