South Africa national cricket team • Cricket World Cup

Southee gone, Neesham gingerly, NZ in hot soup

South Africa national cricket team. Jansen’s third wicket has brought in Neesham at No. 9 but his hand is bothering him. Jansen tests him with a few short balls and Neesham is subconsciously playing it very softly as if he’s gripping the bat very loosely. He’s also slow to bring the bat down in a close LBW shout that goes his way.

If Neesham isn’t fit for Saturday’s game against Pakistan, and Henry can’t recover from his hamstring strain either, then New Zealand may be asking people to fly in! They’ll have to take a call at some point because they’ll know whether a player is fit much later and they can’t make decisions that late. Remember, they’re running out of fit players with Williamson (thumb), Chapman (calf), and Ferguson (Achilles) also recovering.

As it stands, only 10 players are fully fit. Whoever they call will first be a “traveling reserve”, and if they are needed to play, then the ICC will have to sign off on that and New Zealand will have to withdraw one of the five injured players from the squad.

Before I can press send, Neesham has also been castled by Maharaj getting a ball to turn in. Maharaj’s third sends New Zealand sliding at 110/8

In rugby’s fiercest rivalry, the Springboks and All Blacks met at the World Cup final in Paris during the weekend in a match that has been lauded as one of the greatest games the sport has ever seen. It was a nerve-shredder, as you can probably tell from the score-line, and ended with both teams down to 14 players and plenty of tears.

Gerald Coetzee: A scary all-round package in the making

He has a scary aura about him. He tirelessly hurls the ball in at speeds north of 145kph. He often gets it to skid even faster off the pitch and has batters contorting into awkward positions. He has demons dancing in his eyes and veins popping out of his forehead when he celebrates. Dale Steyn used to do that, remember? His headband only adds to that aura.

South Africa vs New Zealand, Pune

A 190-run thumping

Glenn Phillips entertained with his 50-ball 60 that razed a few more runs off the target, but eventually, the gulf between the two sides was too much today.

South Africa outclassed New Zealand in all three departments. The runs amassed by their top order gave their bowlers a bit of room to express themselves further, and that’s what they did. Jansen with the powerplay domination, Maharaj with a well-earned four-for, and Coetzee-Rabada-Ngidi were all tidy.

Four days later, these two countries meet again, though the stakes are much lower this time. South Africa and New Zealand sit second and third on the points table respectively and a lot would have to go wrong for either of them to miss out on the semi-final, where they could play each other again. That’s not to say it’s impossible for things to unravel but it would also be fair to look at this as a dress rehearsal rather than a do-or-die. And for South Africa, it could actually be the start because the country’s attention will now shift to cricket and the expectation that was largely absent from their campaign is going to pile on in multiples.

With two months left in 2023, South Africans are starting to think it may finally be their time because this has been a year of unprecedented success. “All the momentum within the sport was started by the women in the start of the year, with them getting into the [T20 World Cup final],” Temba Bavuma, South Africa men’s captain, said after their win against Pakistan in Chennai. “I think it’s been a bit of pressure for us as the Proteas to keep the momentum going. We’re doing well so far and we’ll take the inspiration and motivation from all those performances from our other national teams.”

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The “other” national teams also include the national women’s football team, which became the first senior side to advance out of the group stage at the football World Cup but is dominated by the Springboks, who have unified South Africa in a way nothing and no-one else has been able to. And for the cricketers that is something to strive to emulate.

“We take massive inspiration from them, – massive learnings and lessons from them as a team; from how they go about things, what they stand for and the purpose they play for,” Rassie van der Dussen said ahead of the New Zealand match. “Siya (Kolisi – the Springbok captain) mentioned in a press conference that if you’re not from South Africa, you don’t really understand what it means or what sporting achievement means for us.”

NZ’s back is broken

At 91/5, New Zealand are in big trouble. And at some point, they’ll also have to keep an eye on that net run rate, they don’t want to have a big loss. I can count at least six teams that benefit from New Zealand losing big because we may have a situation of multiple teams on 8 points fighting for the fourth spot.

If NZ do lose, this would be their third loss in a row and they have a tough game against Pakistan and a tricky one against Sri Lanka to follow.

South Africa have been on a roll in this World Cup•ICC via Getty Images

And that’s the rub of it. Beyond having well-functioning systems that result in collective achievement, sport in South Africa is one of the most front-facing parts of society that speaks to the legacies of division and slowly and painfully, some cohesion.

The sport was an essential part of the politics of Apartheid, which kept racial groups segregated and saw all-white teams take the field, and the resistance against it, when people of color continued playing despite all the obstacles put in their way and with the knowledge they would never represent the country. Cricket was the first (and to date only) sport that has had a reckoning with race and it was recent.

The Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings took place just over two years ago and tore the game apart. It has started to come back and to borrow the Springboks slogan, it appears that the cricketers are stronger together.

“The situations we’ve faced in the past three years – Covid-19, BLM, SJN, and various political stories we have had back home as a team, forced us to pull together,” van der Dussen said. “It’s had the effect of us being really tight off the field as well. Between any two members of the squad, there is a real connection. We are blessed in the sense that we are in a good space now because we’ve had to deal with a lot of controversy over the past three years.”

Henry is a fighter

He could only bowl half his overs. The medical team said he will go for scans tomorrow for his hamstring issue. But that doesn’t stop Matt Henry from (metaphorically) limping out as the No. 11.

I hope this is a calculated risk because runs are important but not at the cost of your premier fast bowler having his injury aggravated.

South Africa national cricket team

But could all of that, along with the very fresh success of the Springboks, combine to make this also the cricketers’ year? Coach Rob Walter tried to play it down. “I don’t think it [the expectation] has become anymore because the Boks have won,” he said. “It’s an inspiration as to how they won and hopefully that can catalyze us moving forward.

Maybe the media attention will shift to us now. We’ve spoken about it as a team as to what we can take as opposed to how it impacts us for a pressure point of view. Rugby is rugby and they have been very successful over a long period of time. We are trying to take care of our own business here.”

That’s sensible and sobering because while the Springboks have won four World Cups, the Proteas have not even reached one final and despite all the warm and fuzzies South Africans are feeling now, it’s too early to be thinking about that. The immediate challenge is three more group games, starting with New Zealand, a team South Africa has been poor against at World Cups.

South Africa have lost five of their last World Cup encounters against New Zealand, including at the 2011 quarterfinal and 2015 semi-final, and six of eight all told. They last beat New Zealand at the World Cup in 1999.

Injury update: Neesham

Straight from the comms team of the NZ team: “Jimmy Neesham batted at number nine today after receiving treatment on his right wrist which was struck by the ball while bowling in the first innings.

The same statistic was true for Pakistan (though they did not play them in 2003, 2007, and 2011) and when they looked shaky on 250 for 8 chasing 271 in Chennai, people were clearing their throats to say the word choke and bringing up South Africa’s storied and scarred World Cup history.

You realise that fans have been really scarred by previous performances and you really can’t criticise them for feeling that way”

Rassie van der Dussen

Almost all South African squads have said the ghosts of tournaments past do not haunt them and most are believable to a point – the point where they crash out. This side, still very much in, is perhaps the most believable because of how they see the reasons that people keep bringing up their previous failings.

“You realize that fans have been really scarred by previous performances and you really can’t criticize them for feeling that way, and for criticism to come from a place of hurt,” van der Dussen said. “But personally, and it goes for most of the people in the squad and management team, we haven’t lived that.

South Africa smash England’s World Cup six-hitting record

The best batting team of the tournament posts another 350-plus total in the World Cup

82 Sixes hit by South Africa in seven matches in this tournament, the most by a team in a men’s ODI World Cup. They surpassed England’s 76 sixes in 11 matches in the 2019 World Cup.

10.2 Sixes per ODI by South Africa in 2023, the best hit rate for a team in a year (min: 100 sixes). They have hit 194 sixes in 19 ODIs this year, the second most in ODIs, behind the 209 by West Indies in 28 matches in 2019.

8 Consecutive 300-plus totals by South Africa while batting first in ODIs. It is the longest streak in men’s ODIs, bettering the seven by Australia in 2007 and England in 2019.

So it’s not really applicable to us. It’s things that have happened and they love replaying the scenes whenever we take the field and that’s fine but it’s not something that is affecting us. It’s part of history. But it’s certainly not part of us as a team.”

And so they move forward, as a team looking to carve out their own identity in a year where being “South African” has taken on more meaning.

As for New Zealand, despite getting to the last two finals and losing them, they don’t face the same scrutiny, have even less media coverage than South Africa at this event, and as a playing group, don’t even seem too affected by the All Blacks defeat. They’ll also take some cues from their more famous and successful sporting counterparts which makes the narrative around Wednesday’s match more about two countries’ sporting stories than just two cricket teams.

“When you look at the All Blacks as a whole, they’ve played some great rugby throughout this World Cup. The Kiwi way is we look to scrap the whole way,” Tom Latham said. “Obviously faced with a little bit of adversity in terms of being down to 14 men, but it’s something we talk about in our team as well, we scrap right to the end regardless of the situation.”

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