SOUTHAMPTON – So much has gone wrong since South Africa arrived in the United Kingdom. It was possible to believe yesterday at the Rose Bowl that nothing would ever go right again.
There was greater fight, particularly with the ball, but India still cantered home by six wickets. Worse still, the two-time champions looked like they never even got out of neutral.
Not that they needed to either for SA’s batsmen failed dismally once again. The Proteas may be missing a couple of senior fast bowlers, but it is their performances with the willow that has been the real disappointing aspect of this near-doomed World Cup campaign.
Faf du Plessis’ men are now left with the virtual impossible task of having to win their final six games if they are to have any chance of progressing to the playoffs. Mathematically it is still an option, but in reality it is nigh impossible.
If they are indeed to turn around their fortunes, which would be the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest on crutches, they would hopefully have learnt from the masterclass Rohit Sharma delivered yesterday.
Sharma, the only batsman to score two ODI double centuries, would be the first to admit that his 122 off 144 balls was by no means his most fluent. Kagiso Rabada roughed up the Indian opener in a fiery opening spell, with Sharma surviving a sharp bouncer that ballooned off his gloves just short of a diving Proteas captain Du Plessis at second slip.
A television review also went in his favour after Andile Phehlukwayo wrapped him on the pads early on. It was a close shave, but the big screen showed “Umpire’s Call” and Sharma never looked back from thereon.
He weathered the storm, stayed patient, and then transferred the pressure as his innings progressed through some silky strokeplay. It is the type of innings no South African has come close to replicating.
It would help if they were given the best opportunity to excel. In London, on arguably the hottest day so far, they won the toss and elected to bowl first on a worn pitch. At the Rose Bowl, they choose to bat under a grey English blanket.
India’s ace fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah needed no second invitation to wreak havoc with the new ball that accounted for Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock. In the opener against England, Jofra Archer rocked SA now it was Bumrah who sent shivers through the Proteas dressing-room.
There were moments of respite when Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen attempted to rebuild the innings, but such is India’s quality that they can switch effortlessly between seam and spin.
In the build-up to yesterday’s game there was consternation within the India camp whether they would attack SA with the dual wrist-spin option of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
SA’s track record against the slow poison should have rendered the debate worthless for Chahal once again exposed the Proteas’ shortcomings.
The left-arm wrist-spinner tore the heart out of the SA middle-order, claiming 4/51 through a mixture of googlies, leg-breaks and top-spinners. He was well-supported by Yadav, who maintained the pressure with 1/46 from his allotted 10 overs.
In contrast, SA’s spin duo of Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi went wicketless and conceded 112 run in their 19 overs.
Below: Zaahier Adams comment following the match against India
SA’s lights have not been completed switched off just yet. But the Class of 2019 is fast becoming the worst group to ever leave SA shores for a World Cup.
South Africa 227/9 (Morris 42*, Du Plessis 38, Chahal 4/51, Bumrah 2/35)
India 230/4 (Sharma 122, Dhoni 34, Rabada 2/39)
India won by six wickets