Australian batsman Usman Khawaja said the World Cup log-leaders would not be taking their game against South Africa lightly on Saturday … but was then willing to dump the Proteas into the same category as teams like Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The comment is a sign of how far the Proteas have crashed in terms of reputation at this tournament, but Bangladesh have certainly been better than South Africa, with three wins from seven games and can still make the semi-finals. But Afghanistan are winless and have five fewer points than the Proteas, while the West Indies are between them on the log.
The irony, however, is that Australia have lost eight of their last 11 ODIs against South Africa.
“South Africa were pretty good against Sri Lanka and they’ve got some class players, with Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis batting beautifully. You can never take any international team lightly, you only have to look at Bangladesh and Afghanistan for examples and how both those sides have become much tougher to beat. As soon as you do take those teams lightly, that’s when they bite you on the backside.
“I’ve been a little bit surprised by how South Africa have played in this tournament because they are a decent side on paper. They have experienced batsmen and Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir are really good bowlers. But that’s tournament play for you – you lose a couple of games and you just can’t get on a roll. It’s still a World Cup game, we’re still representing Australia and no international game is a dead rubber,” Khawaja told the Cricket Australia website.
While most South Africans are understandably anti-Warner and anti-Smith after their disgraceful ball-tampering behaviour on their last tour of the country, Khawaja does not expect there to be any ill-feeling between the sides on the field on Saturday at Old Trafford in Manchester.
“Nah, the South African guys are pretty good blokes, some of them we’ve known for a long time. David and Steven are playing some beautiful cricket, they’ve fit back in perfectly and that’s all they can do,” Khawaja said.