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“They’ve lost two in a row now and there doesn’t seem to be light at the other end of the tunnel”

Another day, another 300+ run-chase, another loss.

Two games into the World Cup and South Africa just seem to be sliding down the hill already. They’ve been thrown into the dark tunnel already and the path ahead seems pretty steep.

Different teams but similar approach. Bat big (after being put in by South Africa), squeeze them and attack their batting. England did that, and now Bangladesh have followed suit. It may not have been as clinical as England’s but they have created a massive result very early in this tournament.

In these two games, South Africa just seem to develop one problem after the other. Bowling was supposed to be South Africa’s great strength and ahead of the tournament, skipper Faf du Plessis talked it up as well. Yes, that included Dale Steyn as well but you cannot help with injuries, can you?

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This strength of South Africa has conceded in excess of 300 in consecutive games on the same pitch. In fact, they are the only team to bowl 50 overs and that too twice in this World Cup. Yes, they’ve bowled on two of the best batting surfaces dished out so far in this competition. But the bowling has just not looked threatening or even penetrative enough. They kept backing the same plans despite them not working.

Also read: South Africa batting pays the price for failing to adapt

In the second game, the pacers constantly bowled short and the plan backfired. The Bangladesh batsmen milked those deliveries for runs and kept the scoreboard ticking. At no stage, while Bangladesh’s innings did it look like South Africa can dominate or call the shots. The bowling which was hyped up at the start of this tournament has looked a little toothless and out of sorts. It also didn’t help to lose Lungi Ngidi hobbled off after bowling the fast bowler bowled just four overs.

Bowling is something that may not worry about team management a lot. It’s the batting department that will give them headaches. South Africa might’ve scored 309 in their chase of 331 against Bangladesh. However, during no point in the chase did South Africa seemed ahead of the game. They were always behind the eight-ball, playing, catching up.

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The batting line-up more or less failed against England but here, every batsman got a start. In fact, every batsman in the top six got a score in excess of 20 during the chase. But when you are chasing a big score, you need one of the top-order batsmen to bat long and deep and make a big score.

In this game, South Africa didn’t lose wickets like the first game but they faltered in pacing their innings. At one point, it seemed like their innings was stuck in no man’s land and needs some impetus and force to be taken out. They did get that but at the cost of wickets. There may not have been a cluster of wickets falling but they did at regular intervals.

There was very little intent during the middle period where it looked like the South African batsmen were waiting for something to happen. In fact, only one of the top four batsmen had a strike-rate of over 90 as Bangladesh bowled tight as ever. Skipper Faf du Plessis played a fluent knock while the others consumed quite a few deliveries up front. The onus was on the top four to set the pace of this chase but that didn’t happen.

The middle-order tried but once again fell prey to not converting their starts. Again, like the England game, there were poor and needless shots that could’ve made the difference, none bigger than the one that Faf played off Shakib only to get bowled.

Hence, this game was a lot closer but it certainly looked like South Africa were always behind for the most part of it. Thus, with two losses in a row, South Africa find themselves in the middle of nowhere.

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They came into this World Cup as the third-best ODI team in terms of both, number of wins (47) and win-loss ratio (1.807). However, for two games in a row, they’ve misread the conditions, failed to execute their plans and more importantly, respond to pressure.

South Africa face India next who are yet to play their first game of the tournament. That will certainly be another tough test for the Proteas. They’ve had one against Bangladesh and this is not the first time. Back in 2007, not a lot of people remember that barring India, Bangladesh even beat South Africa in the Super Eight Stage.

Hence, reiterating, South Africa need to pull up their socks very quickly. Though this is a long tournament and does give them a chance to bounce back, things can go from bad to worse when you are going through a bad phase. There are no easy games in this World Cup and South Africa need to be prepared for it.

They’ve lost two in a row now and there doesn’t seem to be light at the other end of the tunnel. But teams have done it before, South Africa have done it before (at least in the group stages if not knockouts) and will look to bounce back strongly. But for that, the story needs to change and for that, the tactics and execution need to change.

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