SA Cricket

ICC World Cup 2023 – Pak vs SA – Temba Bavuma admits South Africa lack chasing ‘blueprint’ after nervy one-wicket win

South Africa are top of the World Cup standings, and firmly on course for a top-four finish, but their captain Temba Bavuma acknowledged that “conversations” would be had about their approach to run-chases, after they had an almighty scare in their one-wicket win over Pakistan in Chennai.

South Africa have been a team of two distinct characters in the tournament to date. When batting first, they have been imperious – rattling off totals of 428, 311 and 399 and 382 in four imposing victories over Sri Lanka, Australia, England and Bangladesh.

When chasing, however, it has been a different matter. They tripped up in embarrassing fashion against Netherlands in Dharamsala, losing by 38 runs after being bowled out for 207, and it was so nearly a similar tale in their pursuit of 271 against Pakistan. From a comfortable 206 for 4 with 17 overs remaining, they lost 5 for 54 in the next 12.3 overs, before the last pair of Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi dragged them over the line with an unbroken 11-run stand.

“It was a nail-biting finish,” Bavuma said at the post-match presentations. “Obviously, if you are a South African fan, you’re a little bit happier at the outcome.

“With the batting, there’s obviously been pressure with us chasing, and we haven’t done well to rectify that. We’ll obviously have conversations, but it will be easier now to have those conversations with the win. But it was due to our doing that we allowed the game to get to that point.”

Given the ease with which South Africa have been blitzing the death overs when batting first, the manner of their collapse will have been noted by their rivals – not least their next two opponents, New Zealand and India, at least one of whom they are likely to encounter again in the knockouts.

The wobble set in when David Miller, on 29 from 32, edged behind off Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was the pick of Pakistan’s seam attack with 3 for 45 in his ten overs. Marco Jansen then spooned a simple chance to backward point off Haris Rauf, one ball after driving a powerful straight six, to depart for 20 from 14.

“The guys who were there in the pressure situations [would need to] truly speak out as to what they were thinking in terms of emotions, in terms of their game-plans,” Bavuma added. “It’s hard to say now, I’m still enjoying the victory myself, but those conversations will happen.”

“It’s something that we’ve spoken about, it’s obviously something that has been thrown about,” he added. “We obviously have a blueprint when batting first, and we’ve shown that in terms of the scores we have been able to post.

“We can’t say with conviction that we do have the blueprint when we are chasing. We’re going to get into this situation again, that I do know, and we obviously want to show a lot more of a clinical display with the bat.”

Even so, a win is a win, and Bavuma admitted that the scenes in the dressing-room were “chaos”, with “the guys picking up Shamsi” after his starring role as an unlikely allrounder. His four wickets in Pakistan’s innings included the key scalp of Babar Azam for 50 and looked to have broken open the contest. But in the end, his unbeaten four from six balls proved to be his critical intervention.

“I’m ecstatic for Shamsi,” Bavuma said. “It started with the ball, he came on in conditions that were in his favour and he exploited them, and then with the bat … you’ll have seen Shamsi on social media gloating about his batting. We needed that today. Fortunately for us, he came through, but we are not going to stop hearing about for probably two weeks.”

Shamsi, the Player of the Match, credited his team-mates for setting the game up for him with their early wickets, but admitted that his four runs were “probably all I’ve scored this whole year… they came at the right time.”

“Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it doesn’t,” he added. “So while it’s going for me, I’m happy to be able to help the team win, but I didn’t think I’ll be able to it with my pads on.”

In terms of soaking up the pressure of the chase, Shamsi showed the fight that his team required, and said that “it actually feels nicer” to have come through the match the hard way.

“These are the type of moments that you train for, you want the big stage,” he said. “Kesh was unbelievable out there, and Lungi [Ngidi] as well before him. If I’d tried to play a big shot then and it didn’t come off, the boys wouldn’t welcome me back in the change-room. So there was never a doubt in my head that I’m not going to play a big shot.”

For Pakistan, the emotions were rather more downcast. Despite an unprecedented fourth World Cup loss in a row, they are not yet out of the running for the top four, but Babar Azam, their captain, was resigned to the likelihood that their tournament challenge is over.

“We were very close but we did not finish well, it’s very disappointing,” he said. “In the batting, we were 10-15 runs short. The way we were bowling, the fast bowlers and spinners, we fought very well. But unfortunately it was not our night. We had the opportunity to win this match and stay in the tournament, but I think we are missing [out].”

Pakistan might well rue their luck in the closing overs, however, after an excruciatingly close lbw shout against Shamsi off Haris Rauf’s final ball of his spell. Umpire Alex Wharf turned down an appeal that was shown to be umpire’s call on leg stump, although it did arguably even things up after Rassie van der Dussen had himself been given out to a delivery that was shown to be clipping the top of the leg bail – and was briefly shown to be missing by an on-screen graphic that the ICC later confirmed had been shown in error.

“DRS is part of the game,” Babar said. “If they [had given it] out, it’s in favour for us, but umpire’s call is part of the game.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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