Van der Dussen asking SA to bat second does not mean they will lose

11 November 2023 - 09:30 By Stuart Hess in Ahmedabad
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Proteas middle-order batter Rassie van der Dussen.
Proteas middle-order batter Rassie van der Dussen.
Image: Pankaj Nangia/Gallo Images/Getty Images

It won’t be as simple as winning the toss and batting when South Africa and Australia meet in the World Cup semifinal in Kolkata, even though both sides strongly favour setting a target, says Rassie van der Dussen. 

The Proteas were far from convincing in claiming a five-wicket win against Afghanistan here on Friday night, chasing down a modest target of 245 with 15 balls to spare.   

“It was largely controlled, there were one or two nervy moments, but that is going to be the case in chases like that,” said Van der Dussen, who top-scored with an unbeaten 76, that was the anchor of the South African innings.

“One thing we did well, we didn’t lose wickets in clusters, everyone that came in put up a bit of a partnership.” 

The most significant of those was the unbeaten 65-run sixth wicket stand he shared with Andile Phehlukwayo, which iced the game.

It was Phehlukwayo’s first match of the tournament, and he showed excellent patience in seeing off the dangerous Afghanistan spinners before whacking three sixes and a four off medium-pacer Naveen ul-Haq.

“We knew we could wait for that and we could play pretty well because it was a bit damp out there.”

It’s the dew Van der Dussen explained that made the decision at the toss a less simple one than many assume, when it comes to South Africa.

In this World Cup the only two losses they suffered have occurred when batting second.

And while the batting unit has to bear the majority of the responsibility for messing up against the Dutch, India, it was the bowlers who gave the host nation too many free runs, adding to the scoreboard pressure in Kolkata last Sunday.

The dew, said Van der Dussen, plays a significant role in the decision about whether to bowl first.

“The win-loss ratio looks pretty good in our favour when we bat first and I think it's pretty much 50-50 when we chase. The risk I suppose you run is that if there's a dew then you're going to have to bowl with a damp ball and there was a bit of dew tonight. 

“I suppose if you're going to ask someone to chase you run the risk of, if you don't take wickets in the early and middle stages, it might get tricky for the bowlers at the back end,” Van der Dussen added.

There will be concern in the South African camp about the fitness of skipper Temba Bavuma, who struggled with a hamstring strain for the majority of Friday’s match.

He went off the field in the second over of Afghanistan’s innings and though he returned a short while later, his movement was far from fluent.

That continued throughout his innings in which he scored 23 off 27 balls, and limped between the wickets and at one stage even collapsed after having to sprint for a single.

He waved off the attempts by the team’s physiotherapist, Sizwe Hadebe, to help him. 

“Obviously my leg is sore,” Bavuma said in a post-match television interview.

“I don't know the extent (of the problem). But it is going to have to be fine, at least in my eyes, (because I have to play in the semifinal). 

“I obviously had that option of coming off but it was our last (round robin) game and I wanted to be out there with the guys. It was an opportunity to spend some time in the middle and I did not want to let it go.” 

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