Why the Proteas failed at the World Cup

South Africa's Imran Tahir (R) pulls South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis up during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Riverside Ground, in Chester-le-Street, northeast England, on June 28, 2019. (Photo by Lindsey PARNABY / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

Veteran Imran Tahir has a simple theory, but it’s arguably the best one.

Veteran South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir hinted on Thursday that the Proteas’ poor performance at the World Cup has at least partly been due to nearly half the team arriving at the tournament not fully fit.

Dale Steyn had to withdraw from the squad without getting on to the field, Lungi Ngidi suffered injuries both before and during the tournament, and Kagiso Rabada was pulled early from the IPL but has not found his best rhythm nor any spark to really mention.

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JP Duminy came into the competition under a cloud after shoulder surgery had restricted him to just three T20 games in a month, and Tabraiz Shamsi also had limited game time before the World Cup due to a back strain.

“There are no excuses, we just weren’t able to play good cricket, that’s an obvious fact. There’s no doubt we tried our best, but a lot didn’t go our way either. We had five guys who were half-fit, half-injured at the start of the tournament and that’s a big thing coming into a World Cup. There was also the weather – although the sun has come out now, the lack of help for the spinners has surprised me.

“So it’s really sad for us because we rated ourselves quite highly coming into the tournament. It’s my last game on Saturday against Australia, but to represent your country against any team is the biggest thing. It’s not just any game, it’s versus Australia, who are first, top of the table. We’ve had a couple of days off but we want to give everything to make our country proud,” Tahir said in Manchester on Thursday.

Old Trafford, where South Africa ends their World Cup journey in a day/night game on Saturday, tends to assist the spinners and Tahir said if ever he and fellow wrist-spinner Shamsi could play in the same XI in England then it would be here.

They did play together against India in Southampton in Game Three but went wicketless while conceding 112 runs in their combined 19 overs.

“We have a good record against Australia, we beat them in Australia, even though it does not turn a lot there. But it is different here and Manchester spins more than anywhere else in England. I strongly believe that we can play two spinners here, but the combination of the team might prevent it. It’s the selectors’ choices, but this is the ground to do it. Every time I see cricket here it has spun quite a bit.

“Australia are very good players of spin though, the proof of that is the runs they keep putting on the board, so it will be a good challenge, especially if there’s a bit of help from the pitch. It will be fun and it’s always exciting playing against Australia. Every time you play them it’s a big battle because they are known for playing good cricket and always give a big fight. You know you need your A-game,” Tahir said.

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