The only ICC event which South Africa had won till date was the Champions Trophy in the year 2000. While the talented bunch of players (or chokers) faltered at every other global cricketing tournament, this edition of the Champions Trophy too went along the same lines.
South Africa played an ODI series against England in England before getting underway with the Champions Trophy matches. Hence along with England, the Proteas team got the ideal preparation for the competition against quality opposition. The numero uno team in the ICC ODI rankings, South Africa had won four of their last five ODI series. The only defeat they encountered was against England just prior to the Champions Trophy.
With an aim to lay hands on the same trophy again after 17 years, South Africa were also looking forward to shed their ‘Chokers’ tag. The beginning was perfect as they defeated Sri Lanka by 96 runs in the opener, giving hope to the millions of fans across the world that this can finally be ‘the’ year for South African cricket.
But the script had just begun, with many twists and turns yet to come. A rain-curtailed match saw them lose to Pakistan by D/L method. Many can argue, South Africa had enough firepower to win that game if it was played full overs, but as we know, cricket has very little space for ifs and buts.
The loss made their most difficult match in Group stage against India- a virtual quarterfinal. South Africa, who had never won against India in Champions Trophy faced the tough task conquering the ‘Men in Blues’, who had suffered a setback after losing to Sri Lanka in their second game. A solid foundation at the top went wasted as South Africa meekly surrendered to India, failing to put up even a fight. Three run-outs in an innings became the talking point as Proteas succumbed to yet another failure in ICC event.
Here we try to dissect what went wrong for South Africa in Champions Trophy-
An abysmal Champions Trophy outing for AB de Villiers
Touted as one of the best limited overs batsman of the modern era, South African skipper AB de Villiers was coming on the back off an average IPL. There were very few pyrotechnics from Mr. 360 in IPL 10, but the Proteas unit hoped he would regain his form by the time Champions Trophy started. The improved show in the ODI series against England reinstated the hopes, but ABD failed to perform at the big stage.
The talismanic batsman scored just 20 runs in three matches in the group stage, a terrible failure from a player of his calibre. De Villiers’ lean patch not only deprived his team of some valuable runs in the middle but also piled the pressure on others. The horrendous campaign had nothing positive in store for him as he succumbed to his first-ever golden duck in the ODIs against Pakistan. No wonder, the sooner ABD forgets this, the better for him.
Losing wickets in a heap
The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 has seen some astonishing collapses from many teams and South Africa was no exception either. Living up to their reputation of choking at crunch moments, they lost four wickets for 43 runs against Sri Lanka, but still managed to set a target of 300 thanks to Amla and du Plessis’ 145-run partnership. However, against the unpredictable Pakistan, they lost six wickets for just 78 runs in a span of 20 overs to give away the sedate start. Miller’s unbeaten 75 ensured South Africa cross the 200 run mark but that was never enough for a win.
Coming to the must-win match against defending champions India, South Africa needed a total in excess of 275 to challenge the mighty Indian batting led by ‘Ace of Chase’ Virat Kohli. Things were falling into place as they cruised to 116/1, albeit a little slowly. De Kock’s wicket gave the Indians an opening, which they went to capitalize on in a splendid fashion. The floodgates opened courtesy ABD’s dismissal, after which South Africa lost their final eight wickets for just 51 runs! They were bowled out for 191 and from there it was India’s match to lose, which they never did.
The talented Kagiso Rabada impresses all but goes wicketless
The new-look South African bowling attack is no longer spearheaded by any Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel, but by a 22-year old sensation named Kagiso Rabada. The youngster has made an instant impact upon his arrival in international cricket and thereby it was a must for all the teams to negate the Rabada-threat at least in the initial overs.
Rabada got the ball to do the talking very often in all the matches, generating considerable bounce and swing from the England pitches but failed to replicate that in the wickets column. The only wicket he scalped in the 23 overs bowled in the tournament too came in the fag end of the innings. While the experienced Morkel and Tahir took five wickets each, Rabada tried his level best to apply pressure from the other end. But his lack of wickets upfront hurt South Africa’s chances, something which he has to keep in mind in the next ICC events.
Wayne Parnell a big disappointment
Already having a potent all-rounder in the form of Chris Morris in the ranks, South Africa opted to go with bowling all-rounder Wayne Parnell ahead of Farhaan Behardien and Andile Phelukwayo. His three-wicket burst against England in the ODI series titled the scales in his favour, but Parnell could not contribute much in the all-important Champions Trophy matches. If scoring just seven runs in two matches was not enough, he returned empty-handed with the ball too. As a result, Phelukwayo took Parnell’s place in the final game against India, but we feel considering South Africa’s flagging batting, Behardein would have been a more apt choice.