South Africa came into this world cup as the number one ranked team, although Australia remained favourites, and were confident of putting their previous world cup nightmares behind them and finally bring home the cup fate has denied them thus far. During the course of the tournament they have lost their number one ranking, been trounced by Australia, humbled by Bangladesh and, most recently, brushed aside by New Zealand. You can add to this that they came very close to throwing away a very well played victory against Sri Lanka, when Lasith Malinga produced cricketing history by taking four wickets in four balls just as South Africa were looking to cross the finish line. Hardly the record of a team hoping to win the Word Cup. On the other hand they did beat Sri Lanka, and aside from those four balls, had totally dominated a very strong Sri Lankan batting and bowling outfit. They also produced a devastating batting performance against the West Indies, a performance that was measured, clinical and devastating. The bowling in the match also got the job done, although they did not manage to bowl the West Indies tail out, however other circumstances were at play here. Worried about a slow over rate and a possible ban for captain Smith that would result, Smith bowled himself in the closing overs in order to speed things up. There performances against the weaker teams in the initial group stage, Scotland and Holland, were also impressive, as was the win in the Super 8’s against Ireland. They’ve been an almost Jeckyl and Hyde team, capable of the type of cricket that saw them beat the hosts, West Indies, and also the weak performance that saw Bangladesh get past the. Looking at their losses more closely should reveal that things are not as bad as being made out. The first loss came in the first phase against Australia. On a superb batting track, coupled with a ground with small boundaries, they ran into a devastating Matthew Hayden, who blasted the fastest century in World Cup history. This laid the platform for Ponting and Clarke to build an imposing total against a shell shocked bowling attack. When South Africa came out to bat they looked well capable of chasing down the total, as openers de Villiers and Smith took the attack to the Australians. However things fell apart after de Villiers was run out and Smith left the field with cramp. Against Bangladesh they played poorly, having lost the intensity they had been building up because of the poor weather and itinerary in Guyana. The match against New Zealand was won by the toss. The conditions that both teams batted under where different to such as extent that the game could have been called after Smith had played and missed at most of the first over. So can they win the World Cup? What happens in their next game will determine their season. They have played brilliantly all year to reach the number one rank, but all that will count for naught should they lose to England and have to catch a flight home before the semi’s. Getting past England will not be easy, but if that is accomplished they will only be two victories away from the title. They will fancy their chances against anyone on heir day but will have to revert to the brave, positive cricket that they have played throughout the season, to regain their form and confidence. The tense, stiff cricket they have been playing in some matches is not the real South Africa. Once they have awoken that giant they will fancy their chances against anyone – even Australia. The Aussies have to lose sometime right? But England first.
England or Bust