For one fleeting moment it looked like rain was going to steal the last remaining hope South Africa had, but then the sun came out. Afghanistan were batting slowly, at just 3 runs per over, but they hadn’t lost any wickets. Perhaps with a bit of a boost towards the end they might put up a competitive total and South Africa might even lose. You could feel the sadness permeating the air. Even as the wickets finally started to fall, and Afghanistan crumbled to a pathetic 125 all out, it still wasn’t as confident as it should have been. Most teams would try to get those runs in 20 overs, if not less, but not South Africa. They waltzed around at 2 per over, or 2 1/2, just on the run rate required, just trying to preserve wickets, just in case Afghanistan might win. At the end they lifted the run rate, but it still took them 28.4 overs to get there. They may not have realised that net run rate calculations don’t consider wickets lost. They only lost 1 wicket and it was a big win but it should have been bigger. The dream is alive – maybe – but it didn’t feel like it.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) Afghanistan are much worse than we thought
If we thought that Afghanistan were going to be competitive in this tournament, we were sadly mistaken. While they have improved tremendously over the years, the big occasion of the World Cup seems to be getting to them. They threw away what may have been their only victory against Sri Lanka, and, on the basis of this form, it looks like they are a good chance to finish winless.
(2) South Africa’s bowling is still pretty good
Imran Tahir, Chris Morris, Hendricks, Phehlukwayo, Rabada. Five pretty good bowlers. No worries about a fifth bowler here. Every one of them was powerful. Every one of them threatened with every ball. Even with Steyn and Ngidi out they are still potent, at least when they get to replace their injured bowlers. This line-up against India and England may have threatened a bit more. They probably would have beaten Bangladesh easily.
(3) Hashim Amla is super slow
It looked for a moment like it was everyone but 41 off 83 when both de Kock (68 off 72) and Phehlukwayo (17 off 17) were going at a run a ball was terrible. Hashim Amla’s strike rate was under 50. That was slow even in the 1980s. While we all love Hash, and without A B de Villiers he is the last big gun, this needs to change.
(4) South Africa are super negative
When you can’t keep up with a run rate of 2.5 in spite of not losing any wickets you know there are problems with the team’s mentality. When Australia in 1999 had to win 7 games in a row, they started out a bit negatively, but not like this. This is ridiculous. Perhaps their captain needs to give some impassioned motivational speeches or something. Maybe A B de Villiers needs to be flown out, if not to play, then to at least talk to them.
(5) The dream is still alive!
While nobody really mentioned it, this could be the start of something wonderful. Four more wins and the semi-finals just might be reachable. With this match they went from 9th to 7th on the ladder, and they are only behind West Indies on net run rate. While 7th is a long way from the 4th position they need to be at to make the semi-finals, it’s a start. One more win and they’ll be close. Two more wins and they’ll be closer. It was exciting, or should have been, at least.