It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that really matters – and South Africa captain Faf du Plessis insists the Proteas can only get better after their opening-game 104-run defeat to England.
South Africa bowled well to restrict England’s heavy-hitting batsman to 311/8 but their run-chase got off to a bad start when veteran opener Hashim Amla retired hurt after a hit to the head.
The right-hander later returned but South Africa struggled to regain control as England’s Jofra Archer bowled north of 90mph on his way to three wickets.
Quinton de Kock (68) and Rassie van der Dussen (50) put on 85 for the third wicket but when De Kock was caught off Liam Plunkett, their innings unravelled and they stumbled to 207 all out in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup opener.
“You are going to play games and come up against opposition that are better than you. England beat us in all three facets of the game,” said Du Plessis.
“As much as we are disappointed, we will want to learn from it quickly and put it to bed. We want to move on from it quickly.
“The flow of the innings unfortunately started with Hashim coming off. When you are chasing a big score like 312, you need a good start to settle the dressing room.
“A good start is really important. With him coming off, a few overs later Aiden [Markram] got out and then I got out. When you go three down, it becomes tough and the score looks big, it looks too far,” he said.
Despite possessing the third-best ODI fast bowler in the world in Kagiso Rabada, Du Plessis opted to give the first over to leg-spinner Imran Tahir and it worked wonders as the 40-year-old dismissed Jonny Bairstow with just the second ball of the tournament.
“It was a plan,” Du Plessis said.
“It was something we first thought about a year ago. When we played against England, I thought we want to go with him because it is different.
“At The Oval you want to bowl two seamers first but we went with what I thought was the best way to get a wicket. I went with my gut.
“Imran had not bowled with the new ball before so he had been practising that for the last two weeks. He knew he was going to do that today.”
Meanwhile, winning skipper Eoin Morgan hailed his side’s composure after they fought past South Africa to open their home tournament in style.
The hosts’ power game with the bat has dominated much of the pre-tournament talk, with whispers of them reaching 500 lingering in newspaper columns, but they struggled to find the boundary rope with regularity.
Despite that, Ben Stokes (89), Morgan (57), Jason Roy (54) and Joe Root (51) all made half-centuries as they moved towards 311-8, before bowling South Africa out for 207 to complete a 104-run win.
“I think given the nature of the pitch and the way South Africa bowled, we were struggling with our plan A game with the bat for some time and that emphasised how slow the pitch was,” said Morgan.
“You could not get away and we could not strike the ball like we would do for our plan A. One of the ways we have improved in the last two years is understanding conditions and we adapted really well here.
“We did not think we had enough runs but we thought we were on par. It is extremely pleasing. I would back us to lose four early wickets and still go at five an over.
“We have been at 20-5 before and put a reasonable score on the board, fought to the end and believed we can still win. If we lose wickets then we will adapt.”
Talking about Stokes’ catch: “He has had a full day out and when he does it is entertaining. We see him do stuff like that in training all the time and you shake your head at it,” Morgan said.
“He was at his best today. He misjudged it at the start. He ran in, stopped and I thought it was way over his head and then the leap. I have only seen a catch like that from AB de Villiers before for Bangalore.
“I don’t know to describe it, it was unbelievable.”