South Africa ahead of the World Cup

At their Tuesday training session in Kimberley, the home team appeared to be in dead-rubber mode if you didn’t know better (January 31). Janneman Malan and Reeza Hendricks were the only South African batters to bat in the nets. Between them, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, and Lungi Ngidi did not bowl a single ball.

Except that in order to simplify their travel to the tournament in India in October and November, the South Africans need all the World Cup Super League points they can get their hands on. If they defeat England once more after losing the first two games of the series, they will move up to the top eight teams that will automatically qualify. Temba Bavuma’s team would be assured of that status if they managed two more triumphs over the Netherlands in the upcoming weeks. Any less would likely result in a qualification in Zimbabwe in June and July.

Since WG Grace was a young kid, South Africa has been performing rescue operations. Therefore, it came as little surprise when the bowlers triumphed in the opening game of the day/night doubleheader on Friday in Bloemfontein after their hitters lost their way and failed to reach 300 on a good surface. However, in a day game on Sunday at the same venue, the home team successfully chased down 343 runs, a record for Bloem, headed by Bavuma’s tenacious 109, which was his best innings while wearing the South African jersey. Look out if this squad can play cohesively and consistently enough to bat as well as bowl and field.

The current World Cup champions, England, appear to be moving against the flow. In their last 10 completed ODI matches, they have lost eight of them, and their last ODI victory came in July. In Friday’s game, it appeared that the visitors would win rather than lose, but they managed it after reaching 146 for no wicket in the first 20 overs before losing all 10 for 125 in the following 25. They appeared to have eliminated South Africa from the match on Sunday.

With Jason Roy scoring a century, Jos Buttler making 94 runs without being bowled, Harry Brook hitting 80, and Dawid Malan and Moeen Ali contributing half-centuries, England’s batting has been in better shape than their bowling in the first two games. If Jofra Archer plays on Wednesday, they could use a better performance than he gave on Friday in his first England appearance since breaking down injured in March 2021. In his 18 ODIs, his 1/81 in Bloemfontein was his most expensive return.

The last time Kimberley hosted the men’s national team for an ODI was in September 2018. The international cricket circus does not frequently visit Kimberley. South Africa won by five wickets in 34.1 overs after bowling out Zimbabwe for 117. The supporters of the home team wouldn’t have expected the English to go that quietly, but they wouldn’t be upset if they did. Even in a dead rubber, and especially in a World Cup year, defeating England is always enjoyable.