Before the start for the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas were among the favourites to lift the title. And why not? They had a gun bowling attack led by the irrepressible Kagiso Rabada, reinforced by veteran spinner Imran Tahir and powered by a highly experienced batting line-up under the sound leadership of Faf du Plessis.
And well before the end of the league phase, South Africa are out of the World Cup. Actually, they were never really ‘in’ it to be out of it. While the record books will say their defeat to Pakistan was the result that sent them crashing out of the tournament, in reality it was just the time the doctor pronounced the patient dead; the writing was on the wall well before that.
Hardly any cricket follower, including me, expected South Africa to become one of the first teams to get knocked out and that too in emphatic fashion. Absolutely every aspect of their game carried a pungent odour which the tournament couldn’t wait to get rid off.
It started with a spate of injuries to key bowlers – starting with young quick Anrich Nortje, then to veteran quick Dale Steyn and briefly to Lungi Ngidi. It also became clear that spearhead Rabada hadn’t recovered fully from the back ailment he had picked up during the Indian Premier League and came into the tournament worn out.
Then there is the batting. Their highest score so far is 68. Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf, David Miller, Aiden Markram, JP Duminy seemed to be there just to make up numbers. Duminy has been on the international scene for 15 years and Miller for 11. But what’s the point of such experience – if you can call it that? In a way, you can understand why AB de Villiers ‘offered’ to come out of retirement right before the World Cup squad was to be announced. It was wrong on ABD’s part to walk out of the team last year – when he could have easily stuck around – and then make that ‘offer’ at the 11th hour. But maybe South Africa wouldn’t have been in such bad shape with ABD around. Anyhow, that’s water under the bridge. Time to move on.
However, if South Africa cricket fans think the worst is over, there is bad news for them. The gradual decline in the standards of South Africa cricket – hit hard by successive Kolpak deals taking the cream of Proteas cricketers to the UK and the far from ideal financial position of the cricket board – might just pick up speed now that the World Cup is over. More South African international players might take up county deals in England and give up on international careers.
When leading fast bowler Duanne Olivier gave up a chance to play the World Cup for South Africa and instead signed up a much more lucrative county deal with Yorkshire in February, the current state of cricket in South Africa was laid bare for the world to see. A hugely lucrative and long-term contract in the UK, plus the green light to play in any league you want on the planet, coupled with a much safer environment to live in make Kolpak deals a perennial threat. And De Villiers has set an example to other South African cricketers by giving up on international cricket and becoming a mercenary cricketer who plays all year round.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if South Africa continues to produce world-class cricketers, only for England and T20 leagues to scoop up the best and leave the Proteas side scampering to put together a decent side at the international arena. Success at the World Cup would not have reversed that trend but their disastrous campaign has certainly pushed them closer to the wilderness.
Eoin Morgan has admitted England’s “batting mantra” has deserted them just when they need it most, with defeat by Australia leaving their World Cup hopes on the line.
Captain Morgan vowed to “lead from the front” as England face do-or-die clashes with India and New Zealand for a place in the semi-finals.
The hosts and pre-tournament favourites slipped to a 64-run trouncing by Australia at Lord’s, extending their winless World Cup run against their old rivals to 29 years.
World number one 50-over side England had beaten Australia in 10 of their last 11 ODIs before Tuesday’s comprehensive loss, leaving Morgan chastened but by no means kowtowed.
England's chasing record in ODIs at home— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) June 25, 2019
3 defeats in 4 games this WC
0 defeat in the previous 20 ODIs
“Everything is in our control, and we just need to produce performances worthy of winning either one or the next two games,” said Morgan.
“We’ve struggled with the basics of what we call our batting mantra, showing intent, building partnerships and doing it in our own way.
“We haven’t done those for long enough periods of games. Either chasing down 230 or 280, that’s disappointing.
“Our batting mantra is always evolving – the way we’ve played it’s evolved quite a lot.
“I thought the way we played against Afghanistan in the first 15 overs, probably in 2015 and 2016 would not have happened.”
Jason Behrendorff claimed a maiden ODI five-wicket haul on his Lord’s debut as England crumbled to a third defeat in seven round-robin matches.
Ben Stokes hit a battling 89 while dealing with cramp, but injured Jason Roy’s stand-in James Vince failed again with a duck, with Morgan, Joe Root and Moeen Ali also failing to reach double figures.
That, from Mitch Starc to Ben Stokes, has to be one of the best yorkers you will see. Almost certainly the ball that guarantees Australia a place in the semi-final.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) June 25, 2019
England compounded their loss to Sri Lanka with another wayward performance, leaving Morgan to concede that confidence could now take a dent.
“I think it will take a little bit of a hit, but not across the changing room,” he said.
“We go back to what we do well and we’ll still strive to do that in Sunday’s game (against India at Edgbaston).
“Ideally I’d like to lead from the front. The majority of captains have success when they lead from the front.
“So contributions in the next two games from me might have an impact in the changing room. So hopefully I can make a difference.”
England could wind up facing Australia again in the knockout stages, but Morgan rejected suggestions their old foes now have a psychological edge.
Asked if 29 years without a World Cup win over Australia plays on England minds, Morgan said: “No, because I’ve only played against them in two World Cups and I’m 32-years-old.”
England turned their disastrous World Cup 2015 performance on its head with ultra aggressive batting, and headed into the tournament with many pondering the hosts breaching the 500-run barrier.
Tournament bosses the International Cricket Council have favoured less batsman-friendly pitches than England would have preferred, however, creating enticing contests but stymieing the hosts’ scoring.
Morgan conceded England have to get to grips with trickier pitches than they would like – and fast.
Asked if he had been surprised by the pitches, Morgan said: “Not so much with the weather that we’ve had with the last week or so.
“That’s been a challenge, there was a lot of rain last night, the wicket this morning was soft.
“Whether it’s today, tomorrow, next week, during the semi-finals, wickets will be slow, low, they do wear. That’s the nature of ICC events.”
Behrendorff insisted England remain favourites despite their hefty loss, even though Australia’s record five World Cup triumphs weighs even heavier now on their rivals.
“The competition’s still very open, England are probably still firm favourites being the home country,” said Behrendorff.
“We’ll just keep aspiring to play good cricket, but we’re not favourites that’s for sure.”
Asked if Australia can go on and win the title, however, he added: “Oh for sure, again, momentum is a huge thing in tournament play.
“We’ve got two big games coming up as well, so ideally two more wins there and go into the semi-finals in great momentum.”
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England’s faltering World Cup campaign veered further off track as old rivals Australia booked their place in the semi-finals with a 64-run victory at Lord’s.
After misadventures against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, England ran aground when chasing for the third time in the tournament, dismissed for an error-strewn 221.
With India and New Zealand still to play, there is now minimal leeway if the world’s number one side are to reach the semi-finals of their own competition.
Australia captain Aaron Finch paved the way for his side’s win, weathering a tricky start after being sent in and making exactly 100, his second of the World Cup. Yet England rallied well with the ball, dragging the score back from 173 for one in the 32nd over to a more modest 285-7.
That still proved too much, though, Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc splitting the wickets as England’s top order limped to 53-4.
The left-arm pair finished with nine wickets between them, including Behrendorff’s maiden five-for.
Just as he did in a losing cause against Sri Lanka Ben Stokes stood tallest, battling apparent leg cramps on his way to a bullish 89, but he received precious little support as a much-vaunted batting line-up again fell short.
As anticipated Steve Smith and David Warner were booed to and from the crease on their first return to the home of cricket since year-long bans for ball-tampering, but that proved little more than a sideshow on a day that cranked up the pressure on Eoin Morgan’s men.
England skipper Morgan admitted his team were outplayed by a better outfit.
“We were outplayed,” Morgan said. “The wicket was soft when we started, so batting would have been a horrific decision. They dominated until the 25th but to restrict them to 280 was a good effort. But to be 20 for three pegged us back considerably.”
Morgan knows England need to beat India and New Zealand to qualify for the semis.
“Given the circumstances it’s not hugely disappointed, our fate is in our own hands. Everything we need to turn around is quite simple.”
Provided by Press Association Sport