South Africa are yet to win an ODI away game under Pafuma and Mark Boucher ©Getty
What do the bid for the 2023 World Cup in South Africa and cats have in common? They both have nine lives. But Temba Bavuma was only able to put out five who took the most direct route to the championship. More than that, and they’ll likely find themselves sizzling and fighting their way through the playoffs.
Bangladesh’s historic ODI series victory, decided at the Centurion on Wednesday, means South Africa are ninth in the World Cup (WCSL) standings – one place below where they should be to secure their place in the Indian list to book for next year.
They have 11 matches left in which WCSL points will be shown. Two against the Netherlands, and even given South Africa’s new form, it’s hard to believe they would fail against opponents who have been utterly defeated in all four matches completed.
But nothing is certain for the other nine games. South Africa will play three games in England from June 19-24, and the same games in India and Australia in matches yet to be announced. Pafuma will likely win at least four of them to ensure he stays with the top eight teams to secure their World Cup spot. Hence the cat metaphor: they probably couldn’t afford to lose more than five of those nine games. It promises to be a tough comparison.
England have won 12 of their last 14 ODI home doubles, an almost unbroken streak of success dating back to June 2015 and including a victory against South Africa in May 2017. They are the current holders of the World Cup, although how they ended. The trophy – they surpassed runners-up New Zealand in boundary counts after the play-off side stopped – means they can hardly be called champions. But there is no denying that England are a good team and will take a beating in their own backyard.
India was also formidable in its circumstances. Of the 32 home rubber duos since October 2005, they have won 25. A mitigating factor for the South Africans is that they are one of only two teams to have won a series in India in October 2015 at this era.
Australia were even weaker, winning just 13 of their 22 home series since October 2005. They have been beaten by South Africa twice, most recently in November 2018.
Finally, that’s 50 wins out of 69 series for these circuits: a win ratio of 72.46. Of the 40 rubbers still South Africa won 22 or 55%. That’s way better than average – out of the 2,958 games won and lost, the home team won 58.52% and the visitors 41.48%.
So historically South Africans have been ahead of that curve. But they are yet to win an away ODI series under Pafuma and Mark Boucher: they drew in Ireland and lost in Sri Lanka last year. And what does the story matter if you somehow get past your first home defeat in Bangladesh? Wednesday’s defeat was particularly troubling for the South African fans, whose side went from 154 to 37. The Bangladeshis won by nine wickets in addition to 26.3.
“After getting off to a really good start today, we fell asleep,” Boucher said at a post-race press conference. “It’s definitely not the way we want to play. After a good start, we wanted to continue the race. We failed to do so. They played well, but you have to take risks to create chances to score. As if we were afraid to go out, instead of going out and counting the total.
The problem was mental, not technical or tactical, said Boucher: “It’s a belief and a conviction to play the way you want the players to play. We want them to be proactive, but they didn’t do that today. We’ve been working on picks and stuff, so the guys know they’ve got the arsenal. To do that. But you have to figure out that you’ve got it and something else to implement. seems like there is a blockage and the fear of getting out of it, instead of understanding that the game goes on. Try to push the fear of failure out of your mind and try to take the game instead. We are entered in this series.†
How are the alarm bells ringing for Boucher as South Africa are likely to find a way to earn at least four ODI places in England, India and Australia?
“We have a lot to discuss and do,” he said, “but it’s also about understanding that we have clients in our dressing room to beat the best in the world.” “Those teams you mentioned, we’ve beaten them before and we’ll have to beat them again to qualify. The alarm bells are still there, we’re putting ourselves under pressure. But we have to come to the party. †
Pafuma was less focused on the big picture than on tightening the nuts and bolts that seem to have come dangerously loose: “The concern for me is not a lot of points. They clearly matter – we need the points to qualify for the World Cup. But we really understand the way we play, that’s the most important thing. The inconsistency of our performance as a unit, and that’s also a worrying factor. Before long we were beating India [3-0 in a home series in January that did not count towards the WCSL]† In this series, we were completely overwhelmed in all three disciplines. That’s my concern, but it’s also important that we need points.
What’s even more dangerous is that neither Boucher nor Pafuma know what’s going on. Bafoma put forward the theory: “It may be a case of our lack of respect for the processes we put in place that made these positive outcomes possible. [against India]† Things are expected to go our way. But both said they don’t have any real answers yet.
The long shadows of uncertainty that crept from the baggage silos into the locker rooms didn’t help. Graeme Smith’s contract as director of cricket expires on Thursday and he is adamantly opposed to continuing the job – he was named among 20 commentators on Friday’s IPL global TV show, which starts on Saturday. And this while waiting for a decision on the arbitration procedure now concluded between him and the CSA. Boucher’s term could end after the disciplinary hearing in May. If he is not dismissed – a result of the CSA – there are indications that he will want to leave before his contract expires after the World Cup.
The action against Smith and Boucher stems from allegations made against them during last year’s Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings, and the resulting involvement in the project report very problematic. Nothing, including the World Cup qualifiers, is more important than fighting racism. But that won’t stop the drama from trying to do that negatively on players, especially since Smith and Boucher are familiar characters who came into play back in December when the game escalated to dismal levels on both and off the field. . 2019 and played an important role in restoring something like stability.
Could the possibility that the two may not be identical be a factor in the broadcasts as South Africa watched in amazement on Wednesday? If the likes of Smith and Boucher, whose brilliant careers on the pitch will remain fresh in the minds of today’s team, want nothing to do with the highest level of the game in their country, does this say about South African cricket? ? the CSA, supporters and players currently wearing the bracelet?
Bafuma and his team – and Dean Elgar’s Test XI, who will feature in Thursday’s Test series against Bangladesh at Kingsmead without an IPL set, including South Africa’s opening strike – will be forgiven for feeling like to try to play cricket on a bridge below.
It is not easy. So the good thing is that no matter how many lives are left, cats tend to land on their paws.
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