CWC19: Anatomy of an upset: How South Africa lost to Bangladesh

It was the upset of the tournament to date but how did Bangladesh knock off South Africa.

One of the biggest upsets in World Cup history warrants an analysis into how it was able to happen. How was mighty South Africa able to lose to lowly Bangladesh, a team who are decent when at home, but who suffer significantly outside of it, especially outside of the subcontinent?

A. B. de Villiers

The retirement of the great A B de Villiers was felt by South Africa. While the batting is still pretty good, they lack that one guy who can do everything – batting forever or scoring at an impossibly quick rate. Many thought that he would come out of retirement for the World Cup. After all, he is still playing cricket, just not ODIs. Without him, their ranking of 3rd was perhaps a bit higher than their strength.

Dale Steyn

The injury to Dale Steyn during the warm-up matches lowered their status. Once the world’s best bowler, he was set to combine with Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi to have the best bowling line-up in the world. There was a chance he would recover in time for the match against Bangladesh but they decided not to risk him. People like me making a prediction two days in advance didn’t have the luxury of knowing if he was going to play or not.

Hashim Amla

He suffered a concussion during the previous match against England, yet came back to bat later, so was expected to play in this match, but for precautionary reasons he was left out. Without A B de Villiers, Hashim Amla is very important to South Africa’s chances.

The decision to go in with an extra bowler

It wasn’t a bad decision so much as it was overly risky. It was the kind of move that could win a match that they would otherwise lose, the sort of risky play that you should do if you are underdogs, the sort of thing they probably should have tried against England. It made it that much harder to chase a big total, and put that much more pressure on them bowling Bangladesh out cheaply.

Not using Lungi Ngidi

Their best bowler was given 4 overs then taken off, which in itself is fair enough, but then he wasn’t brought back on, which was beyond stupid. If you are going to play an extra bowler, use him. He went for a few runs and that was the end of that. He was South Africa’s best bowler against England, so chances are that he would have come back. Stupid, stupid.

Using Aiden Markham

The opening batsman does bowl occasionally, and if he takes a wicket he sure should have got a second over, but the fact is that he was not bowling well, and to use a part-timer like him for an extended run instead of Lungi Ngidi when Markham wasn’t bowling well was beyond stupid. To do this when you’re going in with an extra bowler is just so, so dumb.

Dropped catches, wickets gifted, etc etc

Probably because of the stupid decisions above, and things just generally going against them, they started to make a whole lot of mistakes.

Shakib al Hasan having the game of his life

He’s a good player, make no mistake about that, but this was a step above. To come in at number 3, when he usually bats at 6 or 7, and to score double his average at 20% more than his usual strike rate was incredible. To do this under pressure, against that good a bowling line up was incredible.

Mushfiqur Rahman batting far above himself

This was a game and a half. He’s had a few great games in the past few years but this was one of his very best.

The team never crumbled

So often Bangladesh have had good starts and crumbled but it just never happened.

A whole lot of luck

A margin of 21 runs is not a big win. With a few overs to go, South Africa were a chance, but lost too many wickets, just. The extra batsman would have got them home, and giving Lungi Ngidi a few more overs probably would have restricted them.

Could this happen again?

When Bangladesh won that famous test match at home against Australia, they said that it was always going to happen and celebrated, only to be annihilated in the second test. That’s kind of how upsets work – they don’t get repeated. Are Bangladesh suddenly World Cup champions? Nah. They were still slaughtered by India in the warm-up match and have still lost to Afghanistan and Ireland regularly in the past few months. They aren’t good away from home. If this was in Bangladesh then maybe they would be a chance, but in England I don’t think so.


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