When a team has already crashed out of World Cup contention, any win thereafter is usually celebrated rather economically and Proteas captain Faf du Plessis admitted that their triumph over Sri Lanka at the Riverside Stadium on Friday was “hollow”.
South Africa hammered Sri Lanka by nine wickets with 76 balls to spare in a clinical display of bowling and batting, but it left a bittersweet feeling as their fans were left wondering where all that verve had been in the first five weeks of the tournament.
“It was great to win, but it still feels hollow, very bittersweet. We know we have let a lot of people down and that was never the plan. We will enjoy the performance but there’s still a hollow feeling and you’re left wondering about what could have been. It’s been a crazy World Cup with any team able to beat anyone, the margins have been so small.
“We just put it all together today, we bowled really well to restrict Sri Lanka and then chased down the target clinically. We showed a massive intention today to fight as hard as we can, but the better teams are in those top four positions for a reason – they’ve been very consistent and they deserve to be there. We have to acknowledge that we have put ourselves in that position of no longer being able to qualify,” Du Plessis said after South Africa’s second win of the campaign.
Du Plessis’ 103-ball innings of 96 not out saw him play with freedom and his attacking shots were hit with tremendous timing as he collected 10 fours and a six. He and Hashim Amla, who played his most fluent innings of the tournament in scoring 80 not out off 105 deliveries, added 175 off 202 balls for the second wicket. It is South Africa’s second-best second-wicket partnership ever in the World Cup after the same pair put on 247 against Ireland in Canberra in 2015.
The skipper said he had felt close to putting in such a dominant performance with the bat right through the tournament.
“Personally, I’ve felt that I’ve been batting really well, I’ve been feeling good at the crease but just not converting. In a finely-balanced run-chase, there are times of risk that are necessary, but today we were able to dictate with the bat and just concentrate on the basics of getting a partnership going, there hasn’t been enough of that and in a World Cup you depend on your senior players doing well.
“Hash has also had one or two starts and just hasn’t been consistent enough in giving us good starts. But he did brilliantly today and if there had been one or two more scores like that from me and Quinton de Kock too, then we would have sat in a different position. If your top three does well then the team will do well, and the other guys in the batting line-up are still young in their careers,” Du Plessis said.
The captain praised his bowlers for closing down the Sri Lankan innings, which went from 67 for one in the 10th over to 203 all out 40 overs later.
“Chasing 200 is obviously easier, it is a completely different game, you can bat at your own tempo. Dwaine Pretorius [10-2-25-3] bowled really well today and the bowlers, in general after the first six overs, did a really good job and put their skills together. Our plan was the slower the bowler the harder it is to face,” Du Plessis said.