Sat, 20 Jul 2019

Done 'sulking and moping around' - Aiden Markram

ESPN
23 Jun 2019, 04:52 GMT+10

So many have been spared over the years and over the many World Cups that it is reasonable to assume no more thoughts are left to be spared for South Africa. Still, from politeness, the request must be made: spare a thought for South Africa one more time.

Because this World Cup, this World Cup, has been a different kind of cruel. They were in a happy enough place to begin with, under the radar enough to not invoke the choking talk, but with a reasonable enough side, with enough bowling weapons especially, to think realistically about progressing beyond the group stages.

Since then nothing has gone right. Losing Dale Steyn for the entire tournament, then Lungi Ngidi for a few games, not only having their batting found out - which most people knew about - but more significantly having the whole AB de Villiers thing found out.

ALSO READ: 'We left everything out there, that's all I can ask' - du Plessis

The bald facts are that they have lost four of their six games and stand on the brink of elimination. They cannot really afford to lose on Sunday, even if Sri Lanka's surprise win over England has had everyone scrambling for their calculators.

"Look, I don't - we definitely never feel done and out," Aiden Markram said a day before the game against Pakistan. "We've sort of tried to put a lot of focus back completely on to us going forward. It's obviously really important that we win the remaining three of our games, and if there's outside chance of qualifying, that would be incredible.

"But the only way we're going to do that is by winning the next three games. A lot of focus is on us at the moment, us as a squad and trying to win the next three games and from there we'll take it as it comes."

Even in the baldness of those facts, though, some get lost amid the others. It's not as if South Africa have been outplayed in all four defeats. A 104-run defeat to England doesn't look competitive and ultimately it wasn't, but until the moment Jofra Archer pinged Hashim Amla flush on his head, they were in the game.

They were never entirely in but never entirely out of the failed chase against Bangladesh. The West Indies washout looked ropey but ended so early it's impossible to know what would have happened. And then, most recently, against New Zealand, the margin of defeat was not just a Kane Williamson masterclass (and some Colin de Grandhomme heroics) but also a review never taken.

It's not right to say they have been unfortunate, but they have been on the wrong end of one or two of the kind of moments that end up becoming critical. One after the other, heap upon heap - it's not easy getting out of this.

"Naturally after the game, it was - it was quite a tough one to swallow because obviously it was quite an important game for us leading to it and it was really close," Markram said. "It obviously went down to the wire and Kane Williamson played incredible to get his team going, something we can learn from.

"Look, the mood, naturally it was a bit down, but I think we've done a bit of our sulking and moping around. The energy in the changing room since we've been here is really good, and I also think it helps the families arrived yesterday. So the guys are feeling slightly more refreshed and up for the next three games."

It hasn't been their only issue, but - as with their opponents on Sunday - their top order getting starts but not much more has hurt them. Quinton de Kock has two 68s and a 23; Amla's form hasn't been great but a 55 against New Zealand should have been more; Faf du Plessis has 63, 38 and a 23; Markram himself a 45 and 38.

Some dismissals have been to good bowling, some to ordinary batting when the thinking has been right, but the execution wanting. "I think it's sort of the modern game," Markram said. "It's really important to get yourself in, because we've seen the knocks and the magnitude of knocks that some of the top players in the world are doing at the World Cup. They are really scoring big hundreds.

"For us as a batting unit, we are pretty much doing the hard work up front. We are getting in and we are not kicking on. It does definitely set you back. Every time you lose the wicket, naturally the rate will drop and the new batter needs to get himself in and it takes a bit of time.

"We pride ourselves on getting big hundreds as individuals because that sets up the team and puts the team in a big position. The positive is that we have been getting in, so we are doing the tough part fairly well up front, and now it's about converting it into really big scores."

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