South Africa have “no regrets,” after their washout against Zimbabwe in Hobart saw them drop a point in the T20 World Cup and believe they are “still in control” of their destiny in the tournament.
“We haven’t had a good history with rain,” the outgoing coach Mark Boucher said, bringing to mind how South Africa lost in a rain-affected semi-final in the 1992 World Cup, misread a DLS sheet and exited the first round of 2003 World Cup and lost in another reduced match in the 2015 fifty-over World Cup final four. “But we’d rather have it in the first game, now where we are still in control with what we can actually do.”
South Africa did everything they could to beat the weather. Chasing a revised target of 64, they hurtled to 51 for 0 in just three overs. And from that standpoint Boucher did admit they were “frustrated,” to get “so close,” only to see it “get taken away”.
“You walk away from this game thinking we were hard done by, whether the game should have taken place or not,” he said.
That’s where some may disagree. Zimbabwe’s coach Dave Houghton was critical of the officials’ decision to keep the players on the field on a night dominated by bad weather and a wet outfield. But Boucher only went as far as calling conditions “tough,” and indicated there was a willingness on all sides to get the match underway.
“We are here to play a World Cup and obviously we wanted to play. It seemed like both captains wanted to play from the start,” he said.
Boucher: ‘If Zimbabwe were in our position they would have wanted to carry on’
South Africa vs Zimbabwe was delayed by a rain interruption in the earlier game between Bangladesh and Netherlands and took place 30 minutes after it was originally scheduled. Play would have started 15 minutes from then but persistent drizzle forced a two-and-a-half hour delay and reduced the contest to nine overs a side. Zimbabwe’s innings was uninterrupted, despite some spitting that turned into a light shower, and they set South Africa a target of 80.
Each team has to play a minimum of five overs for it to constitute a T20 game. This one ended 12 balls short of that cut-off.
At that point, South Africa were 51 for 0 – well past the five-over DLS par score for the loss of no wickets (44). So if the rain had relented at least to the point where the umpires believed a five-over game could take place, South Africa would’ve won without even going back on the field. But the rain didn’t relent, no play was possible and the points were shared. A similar thing had happened in the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Instead of dwelling on the what-ifs of the situation, Boucher was pragmatic. “There’s not much more we could do. We maximised what we could, so there’s no regrets in our dressing room,” he said. “We did what we could and unfortunately we just didn’t get another 10 balls to get the job done.”
Even if the target had remained 64, they probably wouldn’t have needed that many deliveries given how Quinton de Kock (47* off 18) was playing. “Quinny is one of the most dangerous batters in the world when he plays like that. It’s nice from a coaching perspective to see him going out there and playing with that freedom,” Boucher said. “In a competition like this, sometimes guys can tense up a bit. It’s very good to see Quinny play the free-flowing game we know he is very dangerous with.”
Flower: ‘Bavuma will be a talking point until he starts scoring runs’
Asked whether, especially with the rain threat, South Africa considered sending someone other than out-of-form captain Temba Bavuma to knock off the chase, Boucher said if they had that idea, it was only fleeting. “There might have been a thought but it’s a decision where you can’t play for rain. I thought it was a good opportunity for Temba to express himself and lead from the front. We want to keep giving Temba opportunity to get some sort of rhythm in his batting.”
Bavuma continues to receive the coach’s backing, even as he keeps the in-form Reeza Hendricks out of the side, with Boucher using the example of benching their highest-ranked bowler in the format – Tabraiz Shamsi – as a comparison.
“Temba was injured, he did own that spot and he is the captain. He hasn’t been in great form but he got sick in India and these conditions suit his game a lot better as well. He has been batting really well in the nets, is also what I can say,” Boucher said. “It’s tough, not only on him (Hendricks). We decided to go with the extra seamer today, which was a bit harsh on Shammo, but I think it was the right decision. We’ve got some good options going forward.”
South Africa will continue to adopt a horses-for-courses selection strategy as they move through the tournament and into must-win situations. “It’s a tough group and there’s probably one game that is going to be a game we are really going to have to win.”
Barring any major upsets in this group, South Africa’s match against Pakistan on Thursday November 3 could be the virtual quarter-final but there’s a lot that has to happen before then. South Africa play Bangladesh this Thursday and India on Sunday in results that could prove crucial later in the piece.