My emotions have died down and I’m able to think with a relatively clear head about what actually happened yesterday in the Proteas’ quarter final match against Sri Lanka. They produced the perfect ODI match, and apart from Faf du Plessis being caught ball tampering (pic below), everything else was amazing.
So just how did we manage to pull off the quickest Cricket World Cup quarter final in history? I tried to single out what it was that won us the match and what I came up with, is loyalty.
For the past few weeks, the nation has been calling for Quinton de Kock to be dropped from the side, or at least down the batting order. I was in the latter group. I thought that if we let him come in at seven, it may help him find his way back into form. But our captain fantastic stood firm in his beliefs that “Quinny is a match winner”, and gave him one last chance (or three last chances, depending on who you’re speaking to).
South Africa went into a mild state of panic at 5am when Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat, based on the popular opinion that if you bat first, you win. In hindsight, that was the best thing that could have happened for De Kock. He got us underway with a superb catch, taking responsibility as the man with the gloves, taking it one-handed front of first slip. I really believe that if that catch had been grassed, the day could have turned out very differently. Quinny continued to look confident when another catch dismissed Kulasekara later in the innings. By the time he came out to bat, he looked like his old self again, scoring 78* from 57 deliveries, including 12 fours. In the end, De Kock gave South Africa a Semi.
On the bowling front, as expected, Steyn and Morkel upped a few gears for the knock-out stage and the loyalty showed to Duminy as our fifth bowler paid off wonderfully. His nine overs went for 29 runs and included South Africa’s first world cup hat-trick. I doubt that the semi final will be as easy, but at least he now has confidence in his bowling, and we still have AB, Faf or Rilee to turn their arm over if needed.
For me, the best bowling selection though, was not Duminy. I think having Abbott in our side was a brave decision. He has arguably been our best bowler this tournament, but with Philander returning, no-one would have been surprised if Abbott had made way for Philander to provide batting security down at eight.
But in a world cup, you have to go with form, and Abbott is our form bowler. Yes, he only got the one wicket, but it was the wicket that got us underway, and with the way he bowled he was unlucky not to get more. Again, AB remained loyal to the players who got us this far, and I won’t be surprised if, injury permitting, the team that beat Sri Lanka remains unchanged for the remaining two (optimistic) games.
So what does this match mean? Absolutely nothing apart from the fact that we now, no longer have that monkey on our back of having never won a world cup knock out match. When a batsman gets to 50 in a Test match, he doesn’t throw his wicket away because he knows his job is only half done – he is expected to push on and make 100. When a team’s chasing down a target and reaches a milestone, the players don’t celebrate too much as, again, the job is half done. Winning this match is no different, it’s a milestone but nothing more. It’s just another step towards the main prize… bringing the cup home.