South African batters produced some sensational knocks throughout the tournament. (AFP Images)
World Cup 2023 South Africa Team Review: South Africa finished the league stages as the second-best team in the competition, but once again the curse of semifinal stung the Proteas
South Africa came into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 not as one of the favourites, which had been the norm for them in the past World Cups, but as rank outsiders to even make it to the last four. Almost unanimously India, New Zealand, England, and Australia were expected to occupy the top four spots, but with their first game, they announced their intentions clearly. A record World Cup total to wallop Sri Lanka. It was followed by a shellacking of 5-time champions Australia on a tricky Lucknow track. During the competition they put up four totals of over 350 – the most for any team in the tournament and 6 totals over 300 – again the most, Of course, India posted 300-plus totals four out of the five times they batted first.
World Cup 2023: Played: 9; Won: 7; Lost: 2; Points: 14
High point of the Tournament
You could argue that their first two games – hammering Sri Lanka and then getting the better of Australia were probably their high points because that helped them get off to a good start to the campaign. But as is the case with Proteas often they tend to implode and the signs were there when they got bested by Netherlands in Dharamsala failing to chase a modest target of 246. However, in the next two games, they ransacked 399/7 vs England and 382/5 vs Bangladesh and wrested back the momentum in a grand style. Their batting was the strongest suit and these two games pretty much showed how dominant the South African big hitters can be. Heinrich Klassen let surge coupled with valuable cameos from Aiden Markram, David Miller, Marco Jansen, and Quinton de Kock’s blazing start was almost as potent as the Indian batting unit throughout the tournament.
The low point of the Tournament
The Netherlands loss could very well have been the lowest point for the Proteas, but the way they bounced back in the next two games meant they locked up that aberration in Dharamsala and forgot about it. So it invariably had to be the semifinal where they found themselves tottering at 24/4 after winning the toss on an Eden Gardens track that kept getting slow progressively. And had the top order withered the early storm and put up a few more runs for Miller and Klassen to play around, things would have been very different. But, that’s how it is. South Africa will look back on the first 10 overs of their batting and bowling and would know that is where they lost the final – forget about the fact that they fought back extremely well and had Australia under the pump later on.
Temba Bavuma is an astute captain and a leader of the pack. Someone coach Rob Walters swears by and his teammates have thrown their weight behind Bavuma every time questions have been raised on Bavuma. From a captaincy point of view, Bavuma largely ticks the box in marshalling his troops well and with his tactical approach towards the game. He was hampered by the injury to Kagiso Rabada in the semi-final, but defending a low total he pushed Australia to the brink with some smart bowling changes and fielding placements.
Most valuable player
Quinton de Kock finished the tournament and his ODI career with a bang, scoring 555 runs at 59.40. Rassie Van Der Dussen was the second most successful in the team with 530 runs at 49.77. Heinrich Klassen showed why he is considered a dangerous player in the back of an innings striking at 133.21 while the veteran David Miller muscled through bowlers whenever called upon. But the real MVP for South Africa proved to be Keshav Maharaj who picked 15 wickets in 10 matches and conceded runs with an economy of only 4.15 – bettered only by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Nabi among players to have bowled in more than one game. Maharaj was instrumental in pushing Australia to the brink, was the only bowler who returned unscathed against India, crucial in the win against New Zealand and picked wickets in all games barring the Pakistan one. And there he was the hero with the bat in a closely fought match making a valuable seven runs off 21 balls to take his team home in a thriller in Chennai.
One of the major blemishes in Bavuma’s campaign was his batting. As an opener and batter, it was a very underwhelming tournament for him, managing an average of 18.12. In 8 matches he managed only 145 runs – 6 batters, including Marco Jansen, scored more runs than the captain. He was out with was stomach bug for two games and his replacement Reeza Hendricks scored 85 against England and 12 against Bangladesh, but once Bavuma was fit again, he walked in without doing much with the bat. Even during the build-up to the semifinal, Bavuma said he is not 100 per cent fit, yet as coach Rob Walter said, they need the presence of the leader Bavuma more than anything on the field. In that match, Bavuma walked back for a four-ball duck.
Overall, it is a campaign that showed South Africa will be a force to reckon with in the coming couple of years. They looked like a million bucks in the tournament, barring the two games against Netherlands and India. But it was evident what their game plan was heading into the tournament and they stuck to it. Kagiso Rabada had a quiet tournament by his high standards but in Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen, they unearthed two youngsters that will make the core of this team in the years to come. QDK did not have his fairytale ending, and Miller – a veteran of seven World Cups (ODIs and T20Is) combined would feel the semifinal final loss more than others. Eventually, it came down to nerves and the jinx of the semifinal and even though they put up a strong resilient fightback, they failed to seize the key moments in the game. This game was not a choke by any means nor will this campaign will go down like the previous ones as an unfortunate one. They will still leave the tournament as the second-best team.
Most runs: Quinton de Kock: 555 runs in 10 matches at 59.40
Most wickets: Gerald Coetzee 20 wickets in 8 matches at 19.80
Highest individual score: Quinton de Kock, 174 vs Bangladesh
Best Bowling Figures: G Coetzee, 4/44 vs Afghanistan