Wow! What a match! Except not really. This was supposed to be close, but it was decided by 104 runs. According to Twitter polls and polls on other sites, South Africa were favourites. Yet England won easily. I had said it’d be 230 apiece. Perhaps that was right, and England scored 80 runs too many for South Africa. A good start to the tournament just the same.
Five Things We Learned
(1) England are the real deal so get on the hype train
If you are English, or have English heritage or for any reason have an excuse to follow England in this World Cup, do it, and do it now. No, I am not expecting you to reject the country of your birth or the country you are living in, or the country you currently follow – that can wait until your team is knocked out – but this was not only a really great performance against a side who were favoured to beat them – but it gave a real hint as to how far England will go in this tournament.
(2) 311 is a pretty good score
There has been so much said about 500 being scored that they forgot that 311 is a pretty good score, which is very defendable against a weak batting line-up who relies on their bowling.
(3) Jofra Archer is the real deal
This was basically Archer’s first international match – okay, so technically he played against Ireland and Pakistan before this, but they were basically World Cup warm-up matches, so don’t really count, but here, at the big stage of a World Cup, this was a big deal, and he sure delivered. He spanked a boundary and scored 7 off 3 balls when he batted, then turned it on with 3 important wickets when he bowled, including the first two to fall.
(4) Ben Stokes is in some serious form
89 off 79 was the highest score in the match, and he added 2 tailender wickets and one amazing catch that had to be seen to be believed.
(5) South Africa got their choking out of the way early
This loss shouldn’t knock South Africa out of semi-finals contention, just so long as they beat the teams that are not going to make the semi-finals, plus perhaps one who is going to make it. They had the excuse of missing Dale Steyn, plus Hashim Amla succumbed to concussion while batting, but really they looked like they were going to bowl England out here, not concede 311 runs. There were a number of moments, with both batting and bowling, which simply shouldn’t have happened, wickets gifted off bad balls, runouts, dropped catches, and poor use of DRS. It all went wrong for them. If everything had gone right for them, they really could have won this. England lost 8 wickets here and could easily have lost all 10 and been bowled out for around 200 to 250, and then South Africa could have won. 311 looked too much but while Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen were going they looked a chance, only for that one hopeless gift from de Kock that threw the match away. He was going for a 6 but it was the wrong time to do it, the wrong risk to take, and instead he gifted his wicket off a bad ball, and that was the end of that.
My updated effective rankings, including the Warm-Ups and this first match are now: (1) Australia (2) England (3) South Africa (4) West Indies (5) New Zealand (6) Afghanistan (7) India (8) Pakistan (9) Bangladesh (10) Sri Lanka.