Still standing, but Proteas face tough road at World Cup
As Elton John said goodbye to Wales in a soccer stadium, South Africa’s cricket team sent out a message in Cardiff that it’s not yet ready to give up on the World Cup.
The veteran star took his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour to Cardiff City Stadium on the same day South Africa enjoyed an easy win over Afghanistan in a day-night cricket match at nearby Sophia Gardens.
Elton opened with “Benny and the Jets” at 7:28 p.m. local time, according to WalesOnline website, just when South Africa was putting the finishing touches on its show.
After losses to England, Bangladesh and India, and a washout against West Indies, this was a must-win game for South Africa.
“Very relieved. Feel a little bit lighter,” South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said. “But I think all our cricket today was much better and much more competitive.”
South Africa is hoping to follow in the footsteps of 1992 champion Pakistan — which also started the tournament poorly — but that may be too much to ask from the four-time semifinalist.
South Africa’s remaining games are against 2015 finalist New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday, Pakistan at Lord’s on Sunday, Sri Lanka at the Riverside on June 28 and finishing with five-time champion Australia on July 6 at Old Trafford.
“Hopefully this (win) is a real confidence boost for everyone in the team,” du Plessis said. “We know what lies ahead — we need to win every game.”
Even with a nine-wicket victory, South Africa can’t satisfy everyone. The team was criticized by some for its slow play against 10th-ranked Afghanistan and a perceived wasted opportunity to give its run-rate a rocket.
At the end of the first power play on Saturday, South Africa was actually behind Afghanistan on runs — 35-0 compared with 43-1.
Quinton de Kock hit a 72-ball 68, his favorite score at the tournament — he also scored 68 against England. Fellow opener Hashim Amla was 41 not out in South Africa’s 131-1 in 28.4 overs in reply to Afghanistan’s 125.
Amla was cautious but effective in his 83-ball innings which took him to within 24 of the 8,000 ODI runs milestone.
Fans had to wait a long time for the first six of the game, which came off the last delivery of the match as Andile Phehlukwayo sealed victory.
South Africa moved up two places to seventh. The top four in the 10-team league stage advance to the semifinals.
Ahead of the concert, South Wales Police tweeted “Saturday Night’s Not Alright For Fighting.” That was a message for the citizens, not the visiting teams.
Afghanistan’s team appeared broken from the start of South Africa’s reply. There is much tougher competition to come and South Africa, at this stage, does not look like it has the star power needed to reach the playoffs.
On the plus side, South Africa can look forward to the return of fast bowler Lungi Ngidi, who warmed up but did not feature against Afghanistan and was given more time to recover from a hamstring injury.
The 40-year-old leg-spinner Imran Tahir did most of the damage for South Africa against Afghanistan, finishing with 4-29 off seven overs.
Tahir preserved his record as the only spinner at this World Cup to have bowled more than 100 overs and not been hit for six.